Drivers file suit against Texas logistics firm alleging lease-purchase shenanigans

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Monday, July 25, 2016

Five truckers are suing a Texas-based logistics firm alleging the company “systematically underpaid them by substantial amounts” according to a lawsuit filed in state court.

The plaintiffs – truckers Reginald Austin, James Ledezma, Melvin Rockey, Raul Castillo, Mark Carry, along with Kingston Transport, LLC – have all filed suit against TIGA Logistics, a Woodlands-based company that contracts to transport crude oil from the oil patch to various distribution points. The suit was filed July 13 in the Civil District Court of Bexar County, in San Antonio.

The lawsuit states that, prior to December 2012, TIGA provided its transportation services by employing drivers directly to operate company-owned tractor-trailers. But the company stopped using employee drivers and instead started employing independent contractors who were required to provide their own trucks and trailers, but the suit alleges that in most cases drivers obtained their equipment directly from TIGA via lease-purchase agreements. The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of all other owner-operators who have contracted with TIGA since December 2012.

Under the agreements, TIGA agreed to pay owner-operators a stated percentage of the freight revenue they generated – 70 to 75 percent, according to the complaint – and the drivers were responsible for operating costs, including fuel maintenance and repairs. The drivers’ incomes consisted “of the amount of revenue share remaining – if any – after payment of these expenses” the suit states.

The suit states that all five plaintiffs were “owner-operators” employed by TIGA under such lease-purchase agreements. They claim the company concealed its rate sheets and falsified its revenue reports by refusing to allow the owner-operators to examine rate sheets used to compute charges, They also alleged that the company “regularly and systemically understated the rates charged to its customers and the freight revenue generated by the transportation services provided by the owner-operators,” and that such misrepresentations became the basis by which to pay them less than they were owed.

The plaintiffs also claim the company charged unauthorized markups, including an extra 10 percent fee for all non-fuel expenses paid, and a 2 percent surcharge on all fuel expenses charged to TIGA’s credit cards. They also claim the company misappropriated funds in escrow that were meant to held for tires and maintenance, by tacking on a 10-percent surcharge whenever legitimate maintenance charges were paid out of the account, another alleged violation of the lease agreement. The lawsuit also claims that the company would regularly terminate drivers who had a substantial sum in escrow and demand the return of its leased or partially-purchased equipment, while retaining all the escrow funds.

In addition, the suit alleges that TIGA misappropriated Reginald Austin’s insurance rights by failing to pay a repair bill of more than $14,000 when Austin’s truck was damaged in October 2013. Austin alleges he had been paying the premiums on the policy through deductions that TIGA took from his revenue checks. The suit alleges the company instead added a 10 percent fee and deducted $15,717.86 from Austin’s revenue checks.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, including any profit TIGA made with respect to plaintiffs’ escrow funds.

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