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    64.000
    0.5%
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    -0.060
    -2.2%
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    -0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,740.380
    64.000
    0.5%
  • TLT.USA
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    -0.060
    -2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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    0.050
    1.7%
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    0.050
    3%
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    3.210
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    108.000
    5.000
    4.9%
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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. This is written as if because the driver was independent that the carrier did not have the same responsibility as they do with a company driver. The carrier is responsible for safety regardless of the employment relationship.
    If a carrier believes that because they leased on Owner-Operators that this somehow shielded them from responsibility then they do not understand their responsibilities regarding compliance and safety as a carrier.

    1. @ Bill Hood Let’s pretend that Mr. Bollinger was an employee and not an independent contractor. And that he was still operating within HOS rules and regulations. And that Mr. Bollinger is (still) the one who fell asleep while driving. I didn’t read in this story or the one linked in the above article that the carrier pressured Mr. Bollinger to keep driving while he was tired or that CWRV was even notified that he was tired. Given all of that, it seems like a $26.6 million judgment against CWRV is extremely excessive. No one can deny that this is an absolute tragedy. No one can deny that the parents should still be living. I don’t think anyone would argue that Mr. Bollinger, who I’m going to assume never acted with intent to harm, wasn’t negligent is his decision to drive at that point or that he shouldn’t be punished. CWRV is now out of business due to a tragic accident stemming from a decision that it doesn’t appear they had any negligence is creating. That doesn’t seem just to me.

  2. In my opinion that is a ridiculous amount in the lawsuit. I’m sorry but 530 people just lost their jobs!! People die everyday That’ life.!! I lost my husband and father to my kids back in 2003. I didn’t sue. I let the drunk driver go to jail and serve her time. These kids are greedy. Maybe take the money they won and open a trucking company and give these drivers their jobs back’ We all know the lawyers involved get 30 plus %off the top

  3. Folks do some digging, it’s ugly . What’s printed is not really what’s happening, it’s happening on face, but not really, just do some digging your eyes will roll. Trump 2020 , Trust me I’m not a Bible thumper, I don’t go to church either, will the children of God repent and return to God , then He will heal our land, is the way to save this nation

  4. I think since we are in such a litigious society, companies that do not mind their own store (ie O/O and/or Company drivers) will all be put out of business with these huge verdicts. Folks have to remember that negligent awards are paid by the company not an insurance policy. As the insurance field pulls out, the rates are going to go up on simple “supply and demand”.
    I would hope these types of awards with be drastically reduced upon appeal.

  5. We kill 40k a year on our roads, but to FreightWaves, it’s a financial loss that’s the bloodbath. Do we have our priorities screwed up?

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