Overdrive Magazine

June 2019

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24 | Overdrive | June 2019 Drivers and other employees put out of work by the sudden closure of Falcon Transport filed a class-action lawsuit seeking 60 days of pay and benefits and payouts for vacation time. The lawsuit was filed May 6 against Falcon under the WARN Act, which requires companies with more than 100 employees to provide at least 60 days notice before mass layoffs or closings. No further court action had taken place with the lawsuit by press time. Following the company's April 26 closure, Falcon said it had stayed mum on its financial problems to avoid jeopardizing its ability to secure funding, according to filings with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. On the day of closure, the com- pany notified workers – including drivers still on the highway – via text messages, emails and electronic log- ging devices that they should halt work immediately. In addition to marooning those drivers, the fleet left millions of dol- lars in freight stranded roadside and at truck stops, along with leased trucks and company-owned equip- ment, according to a company offi- cial. The fleet also had left its leased owner-operators' insurance premi- ums unpaid and had skipped out on hundreds of thousands – if not mil- lions – of dollars owed to brokers. Andy Straley, Falcon's executive director of safety, compliance and risk, said the fleet deactivated driv- ers' fuel cards, stranding an estimated 80 to 140 drivers. He said Falcon's ownership, Los Angeles-based equity investment firm CounterPoint Capital Partners, "didn't understand the reper- cussions of something like that." Straley said he and others paid thousands of dollars of their own money to help drivers fuel up to get home. He also said the company hadn't been paying insurance premiums for its leased owner-operators, despite having taken money from those drivers' weekly settlements for insur- ance payments. Those insurance policies were cancelled in March, he said, meaning the drivers under that policy had been operating without insurance since that time. Drivers seek pay aer abrupt closure BY JAMES JAILLET J.B. HUNT announced its 360box program, offering small- er operators access to drop- and-hook freight. Launching this summer, 360box will use 500 53-foot trailers. With J.B. Hunt's Carrier 360 app, users will bid to transport the preloaded trailers on a drop-and-hook basis. "Shippers with consistent freight can now connect with the power of small carriers and owner-operators," said John Roberts, J.B. Hunt president and CEO. Similar programs have been announced by Uber Freight (Powerloop) and Convoy (ConvoyGo). A LAWSUIT WAS FILED last month by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission against Danny R. Williams, former president of the now-shuttered Celadon Group subsidiary Quality Companies. It alleges an accounting fraud to sell the company's used trucks at inflat- ed prices and then buy back the trucks at those inflated prices. Williams already has pled guilty to criminal charges relating to the equipment sales. Celadon last month announced it had agreed to a $42 million settle- ment with the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC to end an investigation into its accounting practices from 2014 to 2016. A BILL INTRODUCED in the House and Senate would restore the per diem tax deduction benefit for company drivers that was lost in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The deduction saved drivers hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year in taxes. The per diem change did not affect owner-operators. The bills, introduced by Pennsylvania Democrats Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Conor Lamb, would allow drivers to deduct their per diem only if carriers do not provide per diem reimbursements. Falcon Transport was an Ohio-based 700-truck fleet. A U.S. House bill would raise per-gal- lon fuel taxes on diesel and gasoline by 5 cents a year for five years and then tie the fuel tax rate to inflation as a means to raise revenue for sur- face transportation infrastructure. The Rebuild America Act, intro- duced May 22 by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), also would compel Congress to replace the fuel tax with a "more equitable, stable source of funding" by 2029. Under the plan, the diesel tax would climb from its current 24.3 cents a gallon to 49.3 cents in 2023, and the gasoline tax would climb from its current 18.3 cents to 43.3 cents. The current diesel and gasoline rates have been in effect since 1993. — James Jaillet Bill would hike fuel taxes for infrastructure funding

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