Court grants OOIDA class certification in lawsuit against Heartland Express

| 1/24/2003

Federal Judge Charles R. Wolle has ordered class certification in a lawsuit brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and two of its owner-operator members against Heartland Express Inc.

The action, which was filed in December 2001 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleges that Heartland’s owner-operator lease violates the federal truth-in-leasing regulations and that the motor carrier makes illegal deductions from owner-operators’ compensation.

The certification of a class is significant in this case. If found liable, Heartland would owe damages to every owner-operator injured by its illegal behavior. The Iowa City, IA, motor carrier is a publicly traded corporation (NASDAQ: HTLD).

“OOIDA’s goals in this suit,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston said, “are to see that owner-operators recoup their financial losses because of money taken illegally by Heartland and to permanently prevent this carrier’s further abuse of the truth-in-leasing regulations. The court’s granting of class certification gives both current and former Heartland owner-operators the best vehicle they have to challenge Heartland’s practices and recover money illegally taken from them.”

Johnston added, “We hope the regularity with which the courts continue to grant class certification in our legal actions against carriers will be a wake-up call to those unscrupulous companies who bolster their profitability at the expense of their leased owner-operators. We have already seen in some of our other court actions that their liability, multiplied by several thousand owner-operators, has the potential to substantially impact their future business operations.”

In his ruling, Judge Wolle certified a class that includes owner-operators who are, or have been, leased to Heartland since Oct. 1, 1997, and who were subject to Heartland’s illegal activity alleged in the suit.

The complaint alleges that Heartland illegally forced owner-operators to purchase bobtail insurance from or through Heartland, that Heartland made deductions from owner-operator compensation that were not specified first in the lease, and that Heartland deducted more from owner-operator compensation than Heartland actually advanced for certain products and services, such as bobtail insurance, fuel and the use of a Comdata transaction card.

A jury trial has been requested by OOIDA, and a trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 8 of this year.