C.R. England To Pay Truckers $37.8M Settlement Over “Predatory” Lease-To-Own Program

Topic 25527 | Page 1

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Marc Lee's Comment
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C.R. England has agreed to pay $37.8 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought against it. The suit was filed over its lease-to-own program, which critics described as “predatory” and even “fraudulent.” The settlement agreement comes just a few weeks shy of the eight-year anniversary of the original lawsuit’s filing. At the start in 2011 there were only two plaintiffs: Kenneth McKay and Charles Roberts. Both had been independent contractors for C.R. England who entered into a vehicle lease agreement with Opportunity Leasing, Inc – also known as Horizon Truck Sales and Leasing – the leasing arm and subsidiary of C.R. England.

Attorneys for McKay and Roberts argued that C.R. England misled potential new hires in order to get them to commit to a lease-purchase program. Once truckers were locked in, many found that it wasn’t possible to make enough money to support themselves. After making payments for weeks, months, or sometimes even years, they walked away from the job, their truck reclaimed by C.R. England. The carrier was then free to turn around and lease it again to the next driver.

Many of the lease-purchase truckers came from C.R. England’s “free” CDL training school. In actuality, the program did cost thousands of dollars, but there was no upfront payment required, and after driving for the carrier for a set amount of time the tuition was forgiven. C.R. England even guaranteed employment after completion of their program.

But according to the class members, company driver jobs were scarce and new graduates were steered toward the lease-purchase program with false promises.

While the lawsuit started with just two drivers, according to the class action settlement notice, the class now involves 17,519 drivers. Class members include anyone who entered into vehicle lease and independent contractor agreements with C.R. England and Horizon between 2007 and 2017.

Now that the settlement has been agreed upon by both parties, it will need to be approved by a judge at a hearing which is set for July 9th, 2019.

If approved, C.R. England will pay $37.8 million. Members of the class who do not opt out of payment will receive somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 each. Nearly $16.3 million of the total settlement will go to attorneys’ costs and fees.

In addition, C.R. England has agreed to stop trying to collect on all unpaid debts from students who found themselves having to pay back the “advanced funds” payment which covered the cost of their “free” CDL training. The current amount of debt that is still unpaid by those students is approximately $13 million.

There’s also $48 million worth of “Advanced Funds Debts” which C.R. England still hasn’t collected from class members which will be forgiven entirely. Those debts include things the company billed their independent contractors for like truck maintenance, permits, licensing fees, and lease payments. Some class members claimed the fees were so egregious that they ended up owing money on their paychecks and had no choice but to walk away.

According to one of the co-lead attorneys for the class, C.R. England will also have to inform credit reporting agencies that those debts have been cancelled and provide “an opportunity for credit and DAC reporting repair.” Though since the vast majority of that debt is at least two years old with some of it up to twelve years old, it is not clear how much damage has already been done.

Finally, a total of $68,500 will be paid to Kenneth McKay and the estate of Charles Roberts as an incentive award for bringing the case back in 2011. Roberts passed away before the settlement was reached.

“We are proud of the opportunity we offered to enterprising people to start and grow their own businesses, much like our founder, C.R. England, did with just one truck,” a spokesperson for C.R. England said. “However, we understand that some were not happy with their experience and we hope that this settlement resolves any lingering concerns.”

C.R. England has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement.

By: Samuel Barradas

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.

Dm:

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.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

PackRat's Comment
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Show me one lease program that isn’t predatory, unfair, or isn’t stacking the odds against a driver from the outset. Didn’t think so.

Rob D.'s Comment
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If approved, C.R. England will pay $37.8 million. Members of the class who do not opt out of payment will receive somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 each. Nearly $16.3 million of the total settlement will go to attorneys’ costs and fees.

Our great legal system at work.

rofl-3.gif

Bruce K.'s Comment
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I'm glad to see all those victims get a whopping $1,000 to $1,500 each. Now they will be able to afford the same lifestyle as the crooks who conceived this L/O program. And don't get me going about the lawyers,

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Army 's Comment
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Lol 16 million in legal fees n costs..... sad, these drivers were probably anticipating more than 1k bucks.

Daniel B.'s Comment
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Central Refrigerated was the same when when they hired me. Their leasing program was absolutely crammed down your throat until you believed what they said or until you felt forced to sign.

I really enjoyded how Prime operated. I don't think their program is a fraud, definitely overpriced though.

Tractor Man's Comment
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Yet, despite all of the lawsuits and multi multi million dollar awards, these Companies STILL offer the FLEECE PURCHASE programs!

Hmmmmmm..........I wonder who is coming out on the winning end? The Companies or the Drivers?

confused.gif

Rick S.'s Comment
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“We are proud of the opportunity we offered to enterprising people to start and grow their own businesses, much like our founder, C.R. England, did with just one truck,” a spokesperson for C.R. England said. “However, we understand that some were not happy with their experience and we hope that this settlement resolves any lingering concerns.”

Yeah - this part was particularly laughable.

One of the GOOD PARTS of this judgement is - it appears that people who walked without paying for their "free CDL training", that have collections against them (which CRE likely "sold" to a collection agency), will have the debt (and hopefully the "blacklisting" to future employers) go away. CRE is almost as famous as CRST for pursuing training debts.

OTOH - despite offering "free CDL training", it's pretty much understood by EVERYONE IN THE INDUSTRY (including potential drivers) that nothing is FREE, and drivers either "work off" the debt over a certain period of time (or else owe the money) or PAY OFF the debt with payroll deductions.

I won't get into how a 9 week/400 hour course in a county trade school only cost me $1,900 (that was a decade ago, and still costs the same today), but companies are charging upwards of $4K (or more) for what is essentially an OJT/Apprenticeship style training.

As is customary - the LAWYERS get the lions share of the settlement, using the number of ppl involved in the "class" to drive the figure up, while netting them way less than the financial losses they (likely) incurred. CRE's program has reportedly been one of the more predatory - while almost all of them operate under a similar business model.

The business model is not unique. There's a "Truck Sales/Leasing" company, that buys the trucks, then leases them to the driver in an exclusive lease to the carrier. Pretty much EVERYONE uses this model (Prime/Swift included). "Wholly Owned Subsidiary" for tax and corporate shielding purposes.

What I find difficult to believe (and may create the true basis of the suit) is that folks were trained in their courses and then told there were "no company driver positions available", thereby forcing them to lease. Even CRE isn't stupid enough to run a scam this bad - even though they may pressure someone into leasing by telling them this, in the event they opt not to - there still has to be a company driver position if they successfuly complete training.

CRE has historically had the label of "bad starter company" (though minus the "Swift Truck In The Ditch" reputation for the most part).

While not illustrative of WHY we advise people not to lease here on TT, it is demonstrative of the "worst case scenario" of predatory leasing practices.

Companies that are LEASE ONLY (that don't do training, and are upfront about the fact that there are no company drivers - there are a couple that come to mind), operate under a different model, and are at least UP FRONT about things. A company that has company drivers also, but bullies new trainees into leasing is criminally unconscionable.

Any way you slice it - the ratio of risk:reward isn't worth it. The desk is ALWAYS STACKED IN FAVOR OF THE COMPANY.

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.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

When I went through training with Schneider, I never was exposed to ANY talk about becoming a L/O. I know they do advertise that the program is available, but it was never promoted to us and for that I respect Schneider. Especially after this cluster with England.

The great thing is that before I went into training, I had already been on TT and was educated about the issue, so really, it was never an issue. During school for company drivers, there was also a class going on for the people who were going L/O. Schneider never mixed us up and so I didn't even really talk about it with anyone in that program.

The only differences I could see were that the L/O people got shiny new trucks. They could take their dog with them. And they stayed at a little better motel than we did, even though our motel was very nice and clean. Their motel was closer to the OC so they had a sorter bus ride. Other than that???????

Marc Lee's Comment
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The only differences I could see were that the L/O people got shiny new trucks. They could take their dog with them. And they stayed at a little better motel than we did, even though our motel was very nice and clean. Their motel was closer to the OC so they had a sorter bus ride. Other than that???????

Might as well stay at a nicer hotel!

As I understand how these things work - they (probably ultimately) wound up paying for it anyway!

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