Legal wheels keep on turnin’

By Coral Beach
staff editor


Cases are moving forward in federal courtrooms across the country as OOIDA’s legal team continues to fight for the rights of truckers who cannot afford to wage war against the deep pockets of big businesses.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is fighting legal battles that cover a range of industry issues from unfair lumping policies to leases that result in millions of dollars being skimmed from truckers’ pay.

OOIDA’s legal team has already logged courtroom victories and settlements in a number of cases against motor carriers. Those cases have established case law and precedents in terms of enforcing federal truth-in-leasing laws. But the work is not yet complete.

 “The motor carriers have so much more economic leverage. It’s just impossible for individual truckers to take them on,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president and CEO. “But it’s also the corporate climate in general that is contributing to the unfairness and inequity.

 “In some cases there are truly evil folks out there who just steal and cheat any time they can. But in a lot of cases it’s the corporate climate in general that we are fighting.”

One such case pits individual drivers against DAC Services, which buys and sells drivers’ work histories. OOIDA members and virtually every trucker on the road today could benefit from the case, which is pending in Denver in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

OOIDA’s attorneys presented oral arguments to an appeals panel of three judges in November 2007. As of press time in mid-May, the judges still had not filed their decision.

Other recent developments in pending cases include:

SuperValu Inc.

Previously set for May, the trial against SuperValu has been delayed until October this year. Originally filed in December 2005 in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota, the case challenges lumping policies that the nationwide grocery supplier had in place for several months in 2005.

Between March 28, 2005, and Dec. 22, 2005, SuperValu required drivers who wanted to unload their own trailers to have insurance in excess of federal requirements. Drivers who did not have the extra insurance – as well as proof of the coverage – were forced to pay lumpers.

C.R. England Inc.

In April this year, attorneys for the Utah-based carrier C.R. England filed an accounting of possible damages due to drivers. OOIDA attorneys responded, telling U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart that the carrier’s accounting was “seriously flawed and riddled with errors” and that it “substantially understates (truckers) escrow balances.”

At press time, the attorneys were preparing for a June 2 hearing on the matter. LL