Class Action on Truck Driver Payment Heading to Trial

The Arizona Supreme Court has declined to review a Nov. 4, 2010, ruling by a trial judge certifying a lawsuit against Swift Transportation Co. Inc. as a class action.

A lawsuit that could be highly important to motor carriers nationwide and their drivers is headed to trial fairly soon, now that the Arizona Supreme Court has declined to review a Nov. 4, 2010, ruling by a trial judge certifying Piron v. Swift Transportation Co. Inc. as a class action. The suit was filed in January 2004 on behalf of Scott Piron, personal representative of the estate of a deceased Swift truck driver, by Hagens Berman LLC, a Seattle law firm that announced the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision on Sept. 6.

The suit claims Swift promised to pay drivers on a per-mile basis but saved millions of dollars annually by routinely paying them for fewer miles than they actually drove. "Swift's practice of paying for materially fewer miles than the miles actually traveled by the driver on the run is uniform and affects all drivers throughout the country. This practice was conceived and implemented by Swift at its Phoenix, Arizona headquarters," the lawsuit claims. It sought certification of a class of about 19,000 drivers –- every driver employed since Jan. 30, 1998, who was paid per mile by the company.

Swift claims to be the world's largest truckload motor carrier. It operates a network of 34 terminals located in most U.S. states and in Mexico. It reported $2.9 billion in operating revenue for 2010 and as of June 30, 2011, operated 16,900 tractors – 12,800 driven by employees and another 4,100 by owner-operators.

William B. Cassidy reported in the Journal of Commerce that the point-to-point distances between locations that Swift uses to calculate driver payments are derived from the Official Transportation Mileage Guide or Household Goods Mileage Guide published by Rand McNally and "are widely used by all types of truckers to set pricing."

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