CRST Non-Compete

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Randall B.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello I am dealing with a few issues with a non-compete clause through CRST and would like a little advice or life experience with this.

I signed a driver Employment Contract with CRST International on August 20th, 2014. I went through training and immediately went on the road with a trainer and did my time I was away from home for a total of around two months and in that time was only able to log and get paid for about 6,000 miles which is about 750 per month. At this point my bills are not being able to be paid and they are not wanting to let me have home time for another 3-4 weeks.

So all in all I decide to quit and pursue employment elsewhere. I returned home and worked warehouse for awhile until I can across another driving job to find out about my non-compete clause this was about 6-months after CRST so I was unable to get the job so about 9 months in all so far. I understood the idea of it and did not have the funds at the time or income to pay back my debt to them. For the most recent account back in July of 2016 I was able to line a job up with another carrier do dedicated regional and actually being able to make enough to pay back my debts. I ran into a problem with the non-compete clause yet again.

The other company was willing to wait on me to work things out and set up an arrangement with them to temporarily let me drive on the basis I make payments towards the loan. I contacted CRST and attempted to make arrangements to repay the loan if I were able to drive I was willing to make a $500 dollar good Faith payment and willing to pay $100 dollars a week until my $4200 dollar balance was paid off. After several attempts to make an arrangement they would still not agree to let me drive for the other company.

After two years past the contract date I was able to get a local Class B driving job which doesn't pay very much but am using it to get the experience I need to move forward. This past week though I was contacted by an debt collection attorney saying I was in breach of contract because of the non-compete clause in said contract. They stated I needed to pay a balance of $6,000 dollars or they will be contacted my Employer and I will be losing my job they have agreed to take payments from me but will not let me keep my job unless I pay the full $6,000 dollars the problem with this is if I lose the job I am in I will not make enough to pay anything towards them because I will be losing $3-$4 dollars an hour plus 10 hours of overtime per week do to not having recent experience in other field of work.

I have a copy of the contract I signed and it does not stated a specific amount of time that the restriction can be upheld it specifically states the there "Restrictive term" means the Term including any period of the Term remaining after the Termination of employment of employee with or without cause by either party; provided however, that the Restrictive Term shall lapse immediately upon employee paying in full the amount due.

My question is it legal for them to carry this non-compete against with without said length of time two years has been hard enough trying to find a job that pays well and I cant pay anyone back with out a good paying job. has anyone had experience with this or known anyone to deal with this issue?

P.S. I am contacting an attorney, just wanting to know experiences with this issue when company is unwilling to work things out. other than taking a full payment that has over $2000 dollars added to it

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Randall B.'s Comment
member avatar

Forgot to add the original Term length was to drive for them for 8-months and now it 2 1/2 years later

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Randall.

CRST is known to aggressively enforce their driver employment agreement. There is nothing illegal with their contract. You signed it and agreed to the terms either by driving for them 8 months or paying it off with cash.

Unfortunately it's now in collections and appears to have additional monies added as a penalty. The agreement likely spells out the specifics of this.

It's simple, they trained you and met their obligation, you didn't meet your obligation to them.

A lawyer is only going to cost you more money and likely not going to achieve the result you want. My suggestion, proactively reach out to the debt collector and try to work out a payment plan.

The lesson here for everyone; read any agreement or contract and understand your obligations and the ramifications of not meeting them, before signing it. Once signed they are binding and very difficult to break.

Randall B.'s Comment
member avatar

Yes I did agree to the terms but it also states the term length is 8-months and it's 2 1/2 years later plus I already have an attorney on retainer for 350 hours so I'm not worried I'm just wanting to seek his advice because the contract is very open ended and they are unwilling to work with me when I know drivers that worked there that they set up arrangements with to drive for other carriers

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

As G-Town has mentioned - CRST is legendary for enforcing their repayment clause, and there hasn't been anyone we've heard of yet, that has prevailed in a lawsuit against them.

I'd love to see one of their contracts, and have one of my corporate/contract lawyer clients take a look at it (just for laughs). Some states don't allow for such "restrictive covenants" in contracts. Also found in ANY CONTRACT, is the venue for litigation, which is the home state/county of the company (so their lawyers, principals don't have to travel to foreign courts - foreign meaning, outside their home venue). I'd suspect that the restrictive covenant IS LEGAL in their jurisdiction, which is why no one has been able to break their contract.

As far as their ENFORCEABILITY of the contract. Most of the other companies in the industry just don't want to be bothered with dealing with the hassle of a NEW/STUDENT employee (because if you haven't completed your obligation to CRST, you haven't been driving long enough to be considered an EXPERIENCED HIRE). The only way for them to actually get you FIRED (or get a garnishment order on your wages) would be for them to FILE SUIT AGAINST YOU for breach, prevail and get a garnishment or enforcement order to serve against your current employer.

I would EXPLAIN THE SITUATION to you current employer. CRST CANNOT COMPEL THEM TO FIRE YOU - as their contract is NOT BINDING AGAINST A THIRD PARTY. At BEST they can get a judgement and obtain a garnishment order to take $$ out of your paycheck (the way around this is to become a 1099 employee - as you will then be a contractor, not a "waged employee"). At WORST they can try and sue them for "Driver Poaching", which is usually enough to scare most smaller companies INTO FIRING (or not hiring) you.

I had heard of one OTR company (years ago, can't recall the name) that would tell CRST to go pound sand with their contract and their lawyer, because CRST couldn't legally tell them who to hire or fire.

I HAVE FOUND A RECENT OF LAWSUIT where CRST has SUED A COMPANY FOR "DRIVER POACHING". I'm looking at a case right now in Iowa US District Court, where CRST is suing TransAm (interesting reading BTW - you can see how CRST's lawyers try to go after other companies). TransAm is using the standard "jurisdictional/venue defense" in a motion to dismiss, and it looks like they got it dismissed. Don't know if this case went any further.

And unfortunately - their contract doesn't specify their responsibility to ensure the driver a livable wage while training (for whatever reasons you weren't earning one), while other companies at least have a guaranteed wage during training, so the employee can financially plan for their responsibilities.

But again - most companies have some sort of "restrictive covenant" in their training contract, even if they aren't as aggressive in enforcing it.

What it comes down to is: you signed a contract and obligated yourself to drive for a certain period or repay the cost of your training in cash. As soon as you left (termination by either party, with or without cause) before your obligated period expired. That's the "standard company line" we tell EVERYONE HERE. You signed a contract, it's up to you to LIVE UP TO IT OR BUY OUT OF IT.

Since it has gone to a "Debt Collection Attorney", you might be able to try and negotiate a settlement to pay LESS. Or they may not be willing to entertain this. Pull a CREDIT REPORT on yourself - and if it's on there as a COLLECTION - you could also (likely) BANKRUPT IT OUT - though if this is the only debt you're carrying, it's kinda silly to do a bankruptcy for $6K.

Long answer - above. Short answer - yer screwed...

Rick

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Randall B.'s Comment
member avatar

Well I do appreciate the advise my company does offer non cdl positions but they do pay less can they get me for that because I would not require there training to have gotten the job I have heard yes and no among friends but does anyone know if this is legal I would hate to start over at a different company and loose my work history with this current company

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

Well I do appreciate the advise my company does offer non cdl positions but they do pay less can they get me for that because I would not require there training to have gotten the job I have heard yes and no among friends but does anyone know if this is legal I would hate to start over at a different company and loose my work history with this current company

Assuming restrictive covenant is for CDL DRIVING - they can' say - keep you from FLIPPING BURGERS or doing anything OTHER THAN DRIVING A TRUCK. Without seeing the contract - I really couldn't say exactly what it restricts you from. If it's a TRUCKING COMPANY you work for - they are going to assume you are driving.

I couldn't say (for example) if you got a PASSENGER ENDORSEMENT on your license - that they could prevent you from DRIVING A BUS. It all depends on what the restriction specifies. It is open-ended as far as TIME, because it involves REPAYMENT OF A DEBT. I'm not sure how open-ended it could be, as far as what specific job functions they can prevent you from obtaining. If the contract says "any work that requires a CDL License" - then that's that. If it says any work that requires a CDL-A License - then that would mean it's OK to drive, say, a DUMP TRUCK - as long as it's a CLASS B rig.

If you have an attorney on retainer already - have them review it. Your best case would be to see if they can negotiate with CRST to reduce the amount of the debt, make a payment arrangement, and obtain a release for you to drive while repaying the debt.

CRST has enforced this agreement on (likely) THOUSANDS of drivers - so I doubt you're going to find any "chink in the armor" on them. And it's not likely you are going to be able to find a trucking company that's going to want to bother with the hassle of being sued for either driver poaching or tortious interference (3rd party interfering in a contract/tort).

I'd be interested in actually seeing one of their contracts, not that I could do anything to loophole it.

The OTHER OPTION (horrible as it sounds) is to see if you can hire back on (assuming you left on good terms - but it sounds like you might not have) and complete your contractual obligation.

Folks ask about hiring on with CRST here, and we're not of the habit of bad mouthing a company, if it's not really a "bad company" (and CRST isn't really THAT BAD). We warn potential applicants that is't TEAM ONLY and they ENFORCE THEIR CONTRACT STRICTLY - so if you plan on going with them, be prepared to fulfill your obligation or pay it off COME HELL OR HIGH WATER.

I have personal friends here in FLL that started out with CRST, because they were one of two companies that hired new graduates in this area. All 3 got out THE DAY THEIR CONTACT WAS UP. They just didn't care for teaming, and the lower pay of CRST. Aside from that, they didn't really have that much negative to say about them.

Rick

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Wow! I mean, think of the money this has cost you at this point. It makes my chest hurt just thinking about it. If you would have stayed where you were at and fulfilled your obligation you would now be very well established in your trucking career with quite a bit of experience and probably making $65,000 or more per year at this point. What a shame.

It takes a long time to learn how to make your way in this industry. You don't just walk through the door, get treated like a king, get handed 3,000 miles a week, sit your butt in a brand new truck, and start raking in the dough. You have to learn how to drive that rig and manage your time. You have to adjust to the very long days and the erratic sleep schedules. You have to become street savvy and learn how to handle heavy traffic, tight schedules, and terrible weather. You have to develop a relationship with your dispatcher and earn a certain level of trust by proving yourself to be a hard working, safe, reliable professional over time.

You're not going to get out of the contract. Why don't you just go back to work for CRST, re-establish your career, and pay off your obligations?

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Randall, Rick has given you very good, elegant, and several easily understandable replies to your situation. You got free advice...

A couple of things to add:

Randall,...is not worried:

Yes I did agree to the terms but it also states the term length is 8-months and it's 2 1/2 years later plus I already have an attorney on retainer for 350 hours so I'm not worried I'm just wanting to seek his advice because the contract is very open ended and they are unwilling to work with me when I know drivers that worked there that they set up arrangements with to drive for other carriers

Geez, I would be worried. The lawyer retainer usually carries a fee that you must pay in advance of any work the attorney will perform on your behalf and they work "off" the hours in the retainer. So you retained a lawyer for 350 hours? Really? DO you know what you are doing or is that a typo? Even at a low hourly fee of $150/hour you are over 50K for 350 hours. Even if the retainer is 35 hours, and the unlikely outcome that your attorney legally gets breaks your contract, you will need to pay him possibly more than the $6000 you owe CRST.

Second the 8 months is not elapsed time, but the term of the time they require to drive for them to repay your obligation. The 2.5 years of elapsed time is not relevant to the contract and does not relieve you of your obligation.

You really need to ask yourself this question; is your life better after breaking your contract with CRST? Based on what you have shared, doesn't sound like it is. I agree with Rick; if at all possible I'd try to get your old job back and work off the remainder of your 8 months of DRIVING obligation.

Randall if you replace the brakes on someone's car, and they agree to pay you for parts and labor and it's in writing the agreed cost is $200,...how would you feel if you completed the work to their satisfaction but they declined to pay you the full $200, and handed you a $50 bill and walked away. Wouldn't you fight to get the remainder of your money? I know this is an oversimplification but how is breaking the CRST contract any different?

I am going to bow out of this thread... I was raised to fulfill the obligations of any agreement (even a handshake) or contract. Any further input from me will not be positive.

Randall B.'s Comment
member avatar

CRST Refuses to let me come back to them for 5 years I've already tried to go back to them and when you have bills to pay and a family to take care of 750 a month doesn't really work. They like to draw people in and tell them they'll make 900 or more per week right off the bat which is a lie. and its not just new people either its people who have been there for awhile me friend was making good money and then they switched dispatchers on him and hes only made 17000 this year. anyway ive already talked with my attornety and they have to legal ground to say I breached a non compete clause the term was only for 8 months which is how it is worded in the original contract all the can do is come at me for money owed which I don't have a problem making arrangements to pay that back I just get tired of these big companies playing high and mighty and act like they take care of people and I understand have to work up to mile but when they only pay you $.0125 a mile you need as many miles as you can get I would expect to make the same amount as working at mcdonalds atleast and trying to say I took my home time in random cities because you couldn't find me a load is ridiculous

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
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