Road Law
‘Drive it like you stole it’

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

The title of this article has different meanings and interpretations depending on who you are. An unfortunate OOIDA member was involved in a situation where it was ambiguous as to his employment status, authorization to be driving the vehicle, and whether the vehicle was, in fact, stolen.

The situation began with the separation of employment by the driver from his trucking company and his agreement to bring the equipment back to the headquarters of the company. Where the story took a turn was when the driver became ill on his way back and needed to stop for a few days to regain his health.

The company was not satisfied, or was suspicious of the necessity to stop, and made a stolen vehicle report. Meanwhile, the driver was detained and arrested after stopping at a weigh station in another state on his trip back. The driver assumed it would be an easy matter to resolve with the authorities; after all, he was trying to help the company by bringing the equipment back, and he was an employee.

At the end of the day, the matter proved much more difficult to resolve, because of the multiple jurisdictions involved, than it should have been. Unfortunately, the member was the one who suffered the most through this ordeal as he remained in custody until things got sorted out.

Q. How should I handle a situation where I need to terminate employment or a lease with an employer?

A. If you have a lease agreement with a carrier, you should look at that written agreement to see how termination is to be handled by the parties. As long as the agreement is followed, and you hold up your end of the bargain, there should not be a future problem.

If your employment has been terminated, many times an employer will ask that the equipment be left at a specific location or that it be transported back to the main yard. Be sure to try to follow any reasonable requests the employer has. You want to end the relationship as best you can to prevent any negative information being disseminated about you through the industry when you look for future employment. 

Often our emotions get the best of us, and we do things we regret later. If it can be avoided, you don’t want reports on your employment history that reflect for example, “abandoned load,” “truck abandonment,” “abandonment under live load,” “quit under dispatch,” and so on.

Q. Should I agree or volunteer to take the equipment back to the main location?

A. In these scenarios, you need to weigh your options carefully. Many times it is more convenient for you to get home or to a location near your home if you agree to transport the equipment to another location, or it might take you further away from home with no convenient way to get back home once you deliver the equipment.

If you decide to transport the equipment back, you will want to get a company request or authorization in writing, the preferred route you are expected to take, and the time allotted for the trip. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where there is a question of whether the vehicle is stolen or whether you lack authorization to be driving it. LL

 

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or email roadlaw@att.net.

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.