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“Nuclear verdict” kills 540 truck carrier

CWRV, which hauls Camping World's RVs, is closing down after this month

Country Wide RV Transport (CWRV), the nation’s second largest RV and motor-home transportation provider, is shutting down for good, according to information received late Friday by FreightWaves.

The 540 drivers that currently work for the recreational vehicle transport company will be out of work effective November 1st. The news was first reported on the blog Freight Broker Live., which included a screen shot of an email sent to the company’s employees. 

The CWRV site says the company is exclusive hauler for RV retail chain Camping World (NYSE: CWH). 

CWRV uses independent contractors to transport recreational vehicles and motor homes from the factory and retail stores to consumers that purchased the vehicles. The company’s website says a driver must supply at least a 3/4 ton truck and necessary hitches and towing equipment. 

The company recently was the defendant in a civil lawsuit involving a driver who fell asleep at the wheel and killed a husband and wife. The jury awarded the children of the victims $26.6 million in a wrongful death lawsuit in a Denver, CO court-room just two weeks ago. 

According to the Denver Post, the CWRV driver was an independent contractor, but the jury determined that he should be treated as an agent of the company and therefore the company should be liable in the accident. The Post describes the family’s reason for suing was “to make a change in sleepy driving habits and within the trucking industry, including ensuring drivers log hours and companies take responsibility for driver actions while on the job.”’

The accident happened on July 4, 2017 at 2:30 PM, when the CWRV Dodge Ram plowed into the family’s GMC Yukon. The driver for CWRV, Mark Bollinger, pleaded guilty last year to two charges of reckless driving resulting in injury and received a suspended sentence, avoiding jail time. 

The jury award, while substantial, is not the largest of 2019. A $280 million jury verdict was awarded against a Georgia steel hauler in Columbus, Georgia. In that trial, the jury deliberated for just 45 minutes before coming back with the verdict. In 2018, a $101 million award was levied in a Texas courtroom against an oil service company. 

“Nuclear verdicts” describe jury awards where the penalties exceed $10M. The growing trend of juries awarding nuclear verdicts have forced some insurance providers to exit the trucking industry altogether. In recent years, AIG and Zurich International both stopped covering the trucking industry. 

In the past, trucking companies that used independent owner operators were able to avoid nuclear verdicts by insulating themselves from direct responsibility. But lawyers that sue trucking companies have found juries to be sympathetic to the victims and willing to place blame on carriers, even if the driver wasn’t an employee. 

The same has happened in the freight brokerage industry, where freight brokers have been dragged into personal injury lawsuits, especially when their actions appear to be in control of the driver or fleet. FreightWaves’ John Paul Hampstead covered the topic in July.

He described a concept known as “vicarious liability,”when the broker appears to be controlling the carrier to the point of supervising its actions and therefore assuming liability for them. Call checks, text messages and emails both to the carrier and to the shipper can put a broker at risk for vicarious liability. If a broker tells a driver to move a load through inclement weather, or make a delivery even though the driver is tired, or if a broker refers to a carrier in a customer email as “my driver,” a plaintiff’s attorney will try to allege that the broker is controlling the driver and assuming vicarious liability.

Nuclear verdicts are top of mind across the trucking industry. 

“We’re fed up,” ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Spear told members October 7 at the association’s Management Conference & Exhibition in San Diego. “I’m sick of playing defense while trial lawyers buy jets and yachts at the expense of trucking jobs. These ‘nuclear’ verdicts are strangling our industry.”

The trucking industry has faced a brutal 2019, which has been described as a “bloodbath.” Carriers and analysts that cover the sector have cited numerous reasons for carriers ceasing operations, ranging from Amazon restructuring its network, environmental regulations, low spot rates, lack of demand, GM plant closures, insurance, trade policy and general economic malaise. 

With brutal conditions facing operators, it is highly unlikely that CWRV will be the last trucking carrier to fold in 2019.

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Craig Fuller, CEO at FreightWaves

Craig Fuller is CEO and Founder of FreightWaves, the only freight-focused organization that delivers a complete and comprehensive view of the freight and logistics market. FreightWaves’ news, content, market data, insights, analytics, innovative engagement and risk management tools are unprecedented and unmatched in the industry. Prior to founding FreightWaves, Fuller was the founder and CEO of TransCard, a fleet payment processor that was sold to US Bank. He also is a trucking industry veteran, having founded and managed the Xpress Direct division of US Xpress Enterprises, the largest provider of on-demand trucking services in North America.

29 Comments

  1. Quote:
    “We’re fed up,” ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Spear told members October 7 at the association’s Management Conference & Exhibition in San Diego. “I’m sick of playing defense while trial lawyers buy jets and yachts at the expense of trucking jobs. These ‘nuclear’ verdicts are strangling our industry.”

    Well now , you can’t have your cake and eat it too . So which is it ATA ? Is there a driver shortage or not ? According to your claims there is a driver shortage . So if that were true ,why are you going off the handle ranting about truck driver job loss ? These truck drivers will simply fill another driver job in your supposed truck driver shortage claim .

    Is the ATA really looking out for truck drivers best interest or another party’s ?

    Let’s see .
    Quote:
    “ATA is composed of motor carrier members and is governed by a board of elected carrier representative members” .

    That’s interesting because it appears to me that TRUCK DRIVERS are fed up as well concerning the way that they are treated by CARRIERS ! TRUCK DRIVER LOW WAGES compared to the wages carrier CEO’s are pocketing off the backs and sweat of truck drivers is an example that comes to mind ! What about those CEO Mansions , Yachts , and Jets etc at the truck drivers expense ???

    One who is vulnerable to criticism regarding a certain issue should not criticize others about the same issue !

    I could go on and on about motor carrier associations lobbying for regulations in favor of carriers and not in favor of truck drivers .

    Apparently what goes around comes around . Let’s call it , hmmm I dunno ,”KARMA” !

    How does it feel to get squeezed major motor carrier association ? Truck drivers have been getting squeezed for years !!!!

    In my humble opinion …………

    1. For sure we drivers are fed up and sounds like it time for the drivers to show just who is driving enough drivers shut there trucks down at the same time maybe we will be heard

      1. A quote from Global Wealth Inequality :

        “Those with extreme wealth have often accumulated their fortunes on the backs of people around the world who work for poor wages and under dangerous conditions. ”

        In my opinion that statement could not describe a “truck driver” any better .
        WORKING FOR POOR WAGES & UNDER DANGEROUS CONDITIONS !

        Here is another quote:
        “Low interest rates have not driven real growth in wages, productivity, innovation, and services development that create real wealth for the working class. Instead, wealth and income are concentrated in the top 1 %. The concentration of wealth in the top one percent is at the highest level since 1929. The World Inequality Report notes inequality has squeezed the middle class between emerging countries and the U.S. and Europe. The top 1 % has received twice the financial growth benefits as the bottom 50 % since 1980:”

        That being said , a “strike” is not a sustainable long term solution .

        The only way, in my opinion, truck drivers can “win” and prosper long term is to position themselves in a way where they can compete with the 1% and thus become part of the 1% rank . From my perspective that would be a long term prosperous and sustainable solution during this capitalism era .

        It hasn’t been done before ,at least not by truck drivers as a whole . Therefore rather than follow the “crowd” , why not be pioneers ?

        In my humble opinion …………………

      2. That sounds great but you have the CDL mills such as Swift, Schnieder and others that legislate their own made up laws to their drivers to keep them too scared to want to be heard like the normal drivers want to be.

        1. ..

          I understand your point about fear .

          Here is mine . Uniting drivers at first does not imply speaking out just yet . We first concentrate on establishing ourselves as an alliance .

          The “truck driver alliance ” forms a mastermind group . The mastermind group of the alliance are the one’s who will create a plan along with a strategy and present it to the Truck Driver Alliance members . The mastermind group will then listen to and exchange with the truck driver alliance’s feedback . Once the “Plan & Strategy” is extremely well understood and accepted , then it will be put into action .

          The “Truck Driver Alliance” wouldn’t be going to war , it would be avoiding one .

          Once positioned to take action , truck drivers through their alliance will be in a position to choose for whom they will haul freight without competing with “other” drivers .

          If an outfit as the one’s you have mentioned above choose to act and behave unethically , they will have a hard time finding truck drivers . They will lose market share and position themselves to either go bankrupt and or be bought out .

          We’re not there to bully anyone . The “Truck Driver Alliance” will be more than reasonable , however, it will extremely shrewd .

          Fear concerning truck drivers as a whole will dissipate due to being united .

          It’s a little more complex than what I’m explaining here but I’m trying to simplify it .

          The truck driver alliance will work “very” closely with government and will be involved in immigrant programs as well . Especially truck driver immigrant programs .

          In other words , it would be extremely difficult for carriers & shippers to obtain truck drivers without dealing through the “Truck Driver Alliance” .

          No carrier and or shipper would be able to compete with the way the “Truck Driver Alliance” would be set up as far as truck driver benefits and capital gains would be concerned . The “set-up” is simply doing things in a different way . Being smarter than the competition, this is where the financial benefits will be snowballing in from for truck drivers .

          The “Truck Driver Alliance” would not depend only on freight rates and or wages to generate capital gains for truck drivers . The “Truck Driver Alliance” would create many subsidiaries . One among many would be a Motor Carrier . Another would be a Freight Brokerage co , a truck driver employment agency , etc.

          Truck drivers have needs beyond simply labouring as freight haulers . They require insurance , credit/financing & loans , investment advice & management etc. Being a little wiser and caring just a little more goes a long way in this extremely competitive industry .

          In fact I don’t see why a “Truck Driver Alliance” couldn’t position themselves to own their own truck stops which in of itself is another business that caters to their needs .

          Divided ,truck drivers are giving up an alarming amount of potential profits to business’s that gouge them . It’s not necessary if they unite . Truck drivers united means more united capital gains in their pockets .

          In my humble opinion …………..

          1. You have an “Truck Driver Alliance” – it’s called the Teamsters

        1. Why not align and become a “power” to be reckoned with through a Truck Driver Alliance Co-Op conglomerate ?

          What would you plan on doing if you were to succeed in having all trucks “shut down” ? And by they way you wouldn’t have to have “all” trucks shut down , just the fuel haulers .

          And that was already done in Portugal . Then the government stepped in and showed them who was boss . NO COUP !!!

          And what did Brazil truck drivers really accomplish by supposedly striking due to high fuel prices in an attempt to create a coup through military intervention while demanding for a “dictator” saviour ? Do they not realize that military is corrupt as well ? Mind you Brazilian truck drivers had the public’s support . 87% of Brazilians supported the “strike/protest” . Are they all wealthy now ??? Better yet who influenced them to strike and why . Never mind the price of fuel . That reason was used on the surface to get them agitated and take action .

          Very often you “think” you’re striking for reason “X” but you’re actually being used as a pawn to accomplish AGENDA “Y” which you’re not even aware of ,but somehow suddenly your “strike/protest” shifted and got diverted to protest for something else …

          Do you really “think” for a second that truck drivers were the “brains” behind that “strike/protest” and in control of it ?

          Furthermore look down the road a little further into the future . Autonomous trucks , drones etc. What then ?

          In my humble opinion ……………….

          1. I’ll tell you what Brazilian truck drivers accomplished . A change in policy that lead to higher rates along with an increase in inflation, a reduction in manufacturing and commercial output , and a decline in exports .

            Now Brazilian truckers can charge between 50% & 300% more per trip . This attracts major corporations to invest in transportation and compete with OO’s . It’s all deja vue .

            So who is really gaining by this ? And is that fair ? If I owned a Brazilian Bank perhaps I would be smiling from ear to ear . In fact the profitability from the Brazilian banking sector has risen to a seven year high in the first half of this year .

            Remember what occurred since trucking deregulation in the USA all in the name of “democracy” ? From my perspective persuasive tactics made it appear to be the right and prosperous direction to take. And where did that eventually lead to ? Cut throat competition , low wages ,driver glut, and a broken corrupt industry at the expense of the little truck driver while big corporations enriched themselves and are replacing truck drivers(mining) and further working on ways to completely replace all truck drivers with technology . We’re seeing it . Drones ,long haul , and shuttling . It’s happening much quicker than the generl public has been lead to believe.

            Here’s a quote in regards to Volvo’s Vera autonomous truck from June 2019 :
            “Its latest autonomous truck, called Vera, is about to embark on its first assignment, transporting goods around a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden.

            Vera will form part of an integrated solution to transport goods from a logistics centre to a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden. The assignment is the result of a collaboration between Volvo Trucks and ferry and logistics company, DFDS.

            It is controlled and monitored via a control centre, and has the potential to make transportation safer, cleaner and more efficient.”

            More efficient ??? That means cutting the truck driver out !

            Now tell me why shouldn’t truck drivers collectively own their own Financial Institution(s) rather than strike for a few bucks through a shut down that will eventually come back to bite them in the butt ?

            THINK BIG !

            In my humble opinion …….

  2. As someone who has been negatively impacted by a trucker, who fell asleep, crossed a highway median and drove over the top my in-laws car, I do not believe the verdict is unreasonable or “nuclear”. Trucking companies have a responsibillity to hire qualified drivers and enforce the rules about length of time behind the wheel. THe trucker that killed my father-in-law and severely injured my mother-in-law was considered unqualified by the company’s training person but a senior manager told the trainer to “give him another chance.” That 2nd chance was a fatal one.

  3. Having driven over a million miles and have since retired I consider the fact that I did NOT lose my farm in some “Nuke” law suit equal to winning the lottery. When I started driving there were some accidents. We don’t have accidents anymore. Now-a-days we have Criminal Charges. A comic book offence can result in a 10 year prison sentence.
    Trucking today is in a sense the same as in years past. The bottom line is a driver who get the job done. All the sales, planning and equipment will be for nothing if some dude does not finish the task. I consider my retirement as old fashion “luck”. My advise to all drivers is to get out while you can. There is a powerful force working to get you and if they do get you, you go to jail. Leave trucking while you can. The risk/reward ratio is not in your favor……….. Just say-in….

  4. Hi David ,

    In many of my posts I usually state : Truck Driver Aliance Co-Op . Thanks for the suggestion though . There would be no other way to structure than to structure it as a Co-Op . It’s the branches(subsidiaries) within it where the “genius” is found from which an abundance of wealth will be generated from .

    Now to answer Frank Hammond ,

    Hi Frank , the Teamsters are structured quite differently . I’m not saying that they are poorly structured , just differently . I believe my ideas along with many ideas from potential members would be beyond compare . In fact I firmly believe the Teamsters would want and wouldn’t even have a choice but to eventually work with the Truck Driver Alliance due to eventual Teamster membership loss simply based on the fact that the Truck Driver Alliance Co-Op would generate an abundance of unlimited wealth for its members which would be incomparable . The power that the Truck Driver Alliance Co-Op would obtain through the integration of its visionary ideas would leave the Teamsters and you in awe

    The Truck Driver Alliance Co-Op would be a new “order” and would ,ie; just like Steve Jobs and his visionary ideas along with his team did . He and they transformed computers and the cell phone into what they are today . “striking” in my humble opinion is passé and from the dinosaur era .

    In my humble opinion ………..

    1. Furthermore , Owner Operators can’t join a “union”under U.S. antitrust law, independent contractors can not be organized by a labor union ………… I’m not alluding to misclassified “independent contractors ” .

      Quote:
      ” A bona fide labor organization must pursue its “self-interest,” limit its activities to labor market objectives and may not combine with a non-labor group”

      “The Supreme Court has stated that “antitrust law forbids all agreements among competitors (such as competing employers) that unreasonably lessen competition among or between them.”

      Legal counsel is not a choice , it’s an obligation . A “Truck Driver Alliance Co-Op ” would have its own in house legal counsel team .

      In regards to a “Truck Driver Alliance Co-Op”, it isn’t a “labour organization” . It’s an “association/cooperative ” . A UNITED group of people organized for a joint purpose which involves mutual assistance in working toward a common goal . The common goal is to attain an abundance of WEALTH & POWER to serve its needs which is shared among its members through a jointly owned CORPORATION !

      Quote:
      “A cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”

      The members involved will be educated, enlightened ,and ILLUMINATED in stages ! They will never be “exploited” again ……….. Through the “alliance” the blind become sighted . Members will transition from a lost soul into an order of “Brotherhood/Sisterhood” .

      This is much more profound than you can possibly imagine .

      In my humble opinion…………….

  5. If they pay driver better wages they could afford a motel instead in the cab of truck to get a better night sleep so they would not fall a sleep sound to me 26 million would buy lot of motel think about that company

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