July 29, 2002, Dyersburg, TN --The Coldiron truck terminal south
of Dyersburg was all but deserted Friday morning, the building locked,
the parking lot empty and only a handful of rigs and drivers remained
under the work awning in the back. The previous afternoon the terminal
was a chaotic scene as a half dozen sheriff's deputies served civil
papers on the owner Freddie Ford of Dyersburg while an angry crowd
of truckers milled about, demanding thousands of dollars in unpaid
One driver, Tim Knight of Alamosa, CO, had been stranded there
since last Sunday with his wife and two children, waiting for a
company rig and two weeks worth of back pay. Sometime late Thursday
evening, he and about 30 other owner-operators who had hauled freight
for the local terminal received at least a portion of the money
due them and got back on the road. In the uncertain world of long-haul
trucking, there are few experienced owner-operators who haven't
had to cut their losses and hit the road.
"You can make a good living if you don't get cheated or jerked
around," said Calvin Givens of Covington, VA., an owner-operator
with 11 years of road experience. He was one of the few men who
stayed behind, even after company officials for Coldiron Specialized
Trucking of St. Louis and Transportation Alliance Bank (TAB), of
Utah, changed the locks on the terminal doors and shut the place
down indefinitely. Givens claimed he was also one of the last drivers
to get at least a portion of his money the previous night. He said
a check was cut for him at about 9:30 p.m.. So far as he knew, every
owner-operator present received a check for at least some of their
mileage and expenses.
For the company drivers, however, it was another matter. They were
supposed to be paid at 9 a.m. Friday morning. Unfortunately, when
they arrived, the doors were bolted and the lights turned off. They
had no option but go home and wait.
Alan Marbry of Gates, a company driver, said he stayed until about
7 p.m. Thursday. "They said we would get paid today. I am owed
$989, about $600 from last week." He said that he received
only a partial payment of wages the previous week, about $125. His
brother, Steve Marbry of Ripley, claimed that he was owed about
"I have a wife and two kids to take care of, and a truck payment
to make," he complained bitterly. Givens described a tense,
frustrating week in which drivers were regaled with stories about
missing documents and promises that never came true. Givens explained
when owner-operators contract with carriers, they are obligated
to exclusively haul their freight.
"We can't pull any other load without approval from them.That
gives the company enormous leverage over the drivers."
As trouble erupted between local company officers, Coldiron executives
and TAB financial officers, Givens said that he was told that "we
had to drive with Air-Ride, Inc., of Swanton, O, or hit the street.
That was all said Wednesday afternoon."
So, he put an Air-Ride decal on the side of his door and waited
for the issue of his back wages to be resolved. "I finally
got paid because I called St. Louis and spoke to the owners, Mark
and Mike Weeks, last weekend. I asked them why I hadn't got my wages,
and they said they didn't have a settlement sheet."
A settlement sheet is a document that gives pertinent information
regarding a particular driver's run, such as mileage covered, cost
of fuel and any other related expenses or charges. This is used
to calculate the amount of a trucker's check. Givens said he was
told these documents were supposed to be produced by the office
in Dyersburg, but were never given to TAB.
"I have had four paydays and five pay weeks here, and I have
yet to see a settlement sheet," Givens said. When a TAB banking
officer arrived on Thursday, Givens cornered him and asked for money.
In turn the bank officer complained that he lacked a settlement
sheet and finally had to ask the Virginia trucker how much he thought
he was owed. "I said maybe $1,200 to $1,300. He gave me $1,000
and a little extra for waiting around and watching the trailers,"
Givens said. "I have no problem with Coldiron or TAB bank.
Those people gave me my money based on my word. They had no settlement
sheets. They just trusted what I told them was true. I didn't know
I had a choice of continuing to work for Coldiron. I am peeling
off these decals for Air-Ride, and I am going to put on the Coldiron
He explained that most drivers were unaware they had the option
of staying with the Coldiron company when local terminal personnel
told them they must sign contracts with Air-Ride or leave. In another
odd turn of events, Givens claimed to be one of several truckers
hired to repossess 11 diesel fleet rigs for Coldiron. They were
discovered in a pasture surrounded by thick woods between Four Points
and Halls. Givens said they were being hidden from Coldiron and
TAB, which Thursday filed a $7 million lawsuit against Ford. "When
we were driving the trucks out of there, the limbs were hitting
the cabs," he said. The trucks and several trailers were moved
to a large Coldiron lot near Halls.
As Givens peeled an Air-Ride decal from the door of his truck and
replaced it with a logo for Coldiron, he expressed relief that the
ordeal was nearly over for him, and he would soon be going home
for a few days of well-earned rest. He angrily announced that in
the future he would "refuse to work for anybody associated
with the Dyersburg terminal."
By John Leeper
Reprinted with permission of State Gazette, Dyersburg,