A group of Celadon independent owner-operators will finally be getting checks from a 2013 class action suit that accused the trucking company of deceiving drivers and withholding too much money from their pay checks for fuel costs.
Approximately 2,400 Celadon drivers will soon receive checks in the mail from the $4.2 million judgement against the company. Some drivers could see checks of more than $1000, with a maximum payout at $17,000, based on the amount of individual fuel purchases, according to the Indiana Business Journal.
In 2013, the drivers filed a class action suit against Celadon, alleging that the company deceived them about how much of a discount was being issued when they used a Comdata card to purchase fuel at a Flying J truck stop and withheld too much money from their compensation. The suit alleges that Celadon made $20 in profit every time an owner-operator purchased 100 gallons of fuel from a Comdata card.
“To pay for fuel while on a job, employee drivers were given a “Comdata” card, which functions like a consumer credit or debit card Additionally, Celadon required its employee drivers to refuel at Pilot Flying J truck stops whenever possible, in return for Pilot Flying J offering a substantial fuel cost discount to Celadon. Whenever a Comdata card was swiped at a Pilot Flying J fuel pump, the displayed price per gallon automatically would be reduced from the posted “credit” price to the “cash” price, which typically is about six cents per gallon less than the “credit” price. However, Celadon actually paid Pilot Flying J less than the displayed “cash” price for transactions using the Comdata card. The discounted price Pilot Flying J charged Celadon generally was equivalent to Pilot Flying J’s cost minus eight cents per gallon. Pilot Flying J would send separate invoices to Celadon for fuel purchases made using Comdata cards, which Celadon then paid at the discounted price.
Celadon also provided Comdata cards to its independent contractors. When an independent contractor would use a Comdata card at a Pilot Flying J, as with employee drivers, the displayed price per gallon was reduced from the “credit” to the “cash” price. Celadon then would deduct the amount of Comdata fuel purchases from an independent contractor’s total compensation before paying them, using a calculation based on the fuel’s “cash” pump price. This amount also was reflected on fuel receipts from Pilot Flying J to the drivers. However, as with employees, Celadon actually paid Pilot Flying J much less than the “cash” price for these Comdata purchases. Celadon paid Pilot Flying J the same discounted cost-less-eight-cents per gallon, and Celadon retained the difference when deducting the higher pump price from an independent contractor’s compensation. Additionally, independent contractors could choose to use the Comdata card at locations other than Pilot Flying J, though Celadon imposed a higher fee for doing so—$7.50 versus $3.00 per transaction—thus making it financially more attractive for the drivers to refuel at Pilot Flying Js.“
The Marion Superior Court sided with the drivers in late 2015, but it took years of courtroom wrangling before the drivers were to see any of the payments that the court deemed that they were owed.