Maverick Transport fined $130000 for false information on Dac Report
Judge Finds Maverick Blacklisted Driver on DAC; Carrier Must Pay Damages, Fix DAC
JUDGE FINDS MAVERICK TRANSPORTATION BLACKLISTED DRIVER, AWARDS DAMAGES AND ORDERS CORRECTION OF DAC REPORT.
In a decision issued on October 28, 2010, Judge Russell Pulver of the United States Department of Labor held that Maverick Transportation, LLC, a carrier based in North Little Rock, AR improperly blacklisted one of its former truck drivers, Albert Canter, by showing on his "DAC Report" that he had abandoned a truck. Canter had refused to drive the truck because it had been cited by a commercial vehicle enforcement officer for having a power steering fluid leak and an air hose not protected against chaffing in violation of several commercial vehicle safety regulations. Judge Pulver found that Maverick violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act ("STAA") which prohibits discrimination against drivers because they have filed complaints related to violations of commercial vehicle safety regulations or because they have refused to drive in violation of a commercial vehicle safety regulation.
Canter found out that he had been blacklisted on his DAC Report nearly 5 years after Maverick placed the note that he had abandonment of the truck on his DAC Report. The STAA provides that a claim of discrimination must be brought within 180 days of the discriminatory act. Judge Pulver's decision for Canter is significant because it held that the 180-day period to bring a claim under the STAA begins to run from the time the driver discovers that he has been blacklisted.
In November 2003, Canter was in Ohio en route to Virginia transporting a load for Maverick when he was involved in a crash resulting in the death of a motorcyclist who had been knocked off his bike by a deer ahead of Canter on a highway. Canter was not found to be at fault in the crash. A Pennsylvania State Trooper inspected Canter's assigned truck and found that two brakes were out of adjustment, the power steering box had a fluid leak, a brake hose was chaffing on a wire tie causing visible wear and dunnage under the trailer was secured only by a rubber strap. Canter was allowed by law enforcement to drive the truck home after the brakes were adjusted.
Maverick allowed Canter to drive approximately 70 miles to his home from the crash scene in order to deal with the stress of having just been involved in a fatal crash. Canter remained at his home for about one month, after which he informed Maverick that he was
quitting. Canter refused Maverick's instruction to drive the truck more than 200 miles to an Ohio terminal citing the "deadline problems" found by Pennsylvania Law Enforcement.
As a result of Canter's refusal to drive the truck with the power steering fluid leak and improperly secured air hose, Maverick noted on Canter's DAC Report that he had abandoned the truck and that he was not eligible for re-hire by Maverick. Canter did not discover that this information was on his DAC Report until nearly 5 years later when he suddenly found it difficult to find work as a driver. Canter disputed this information with USIS, which asked Maverick to respond to the dispute. Maverick's "Re-Hire Committee" decided that the notations of truck abandonment and Canter's ineligibility for rehire should remain on his DAC report.
Canter then brought a claim for blacklisting against Maverick under the STAA by filing a complaint with OSHA. OSHA denied Canter's claim finding that it was untimely. Canter objected to OSHA's decision and Judge Pulver was assigned from the Department of Labor to conduct a formal hearing. In finding that Canter's claim was timely, Judge Pulver stated that "Canter
presents the more compelling argument that the 180-day statutory period began running upon receipt of his DAC report. Although the report was prepared in early 2004, Canter
could not have been aware of the contents in the report given that he had already voluntarily terminated his employment with Respondent."
Judge Pulver also found that the posting of the adverse information on Canter's DAC Report was done in retaliation for Canter's legally-protected work refusal finding that "there is compelling testimony in the record that driving the truck would have resulted in violation of DOT regulations." Judge Pulver also found that Canter's refusal to drive was protected because "Canter
had a reasonable apprehension that driving 200-250 miles to the Middletown, Ohio terminal could result in serious injury to himself and others."
Judge Pulver awarded Canter more than $55,000 in wage loss damages and $75,000 in emotional distress damages resulting from Maverick's retaliatory blacklisting. He also awarded Canter his attorney fees and costs. Judge Pulver ordered Maverick to post a copy of his decision at all of its terminals. Finally, Judge Pulver ordered Maverick to remove abandonment from Canter's DAC Report and to pay him $ 585.70 weekly until it does so.
Paul O. Taylor is an attorney with Truckers Justice Center in Burnsville, MN. Mr. Taylor represents trucker drivers in employment related cases. He can be reached at 651-454-5800 or at www.truckersjustice.com.