Truck Driver Class Action

Ham et al. v. Swift Transportation Co., Inc.Case No. 2:09-cv-02145-JTF (W.D. Tenn. 2012)

This class action was brought by truck drivers who alleged that they had lost money as the result of attending a student trucking driving academy conducted by Swift Transportation Co., Inc., the largest trucking driving operation in the United States.  Swift owned and operated a driving academy in Tennessee in which it promised to train students how to properly and safely operate an 18 wheeler.  Swift charged the students millions of dollars in fees for this course, the vast majority of which were financed by student loans made by Swift. After their successful completion of Swift’s three week course, the students allege that Swift agreed to administer to Tennessee’s CDL driving test (as approved by the Tennessee Department of Safety), and, if this test were passed, Swift would offer each student employment through which they could repay their student loans.  In the Fall of 2008, the FBI and TDOT raided Swift’s training facilities and conducted an investigation. From that investigation, the TDOT terminated Swift’s CDL testing and determined that Swift had intentionally or negligently failed to adhere to all CDL testing requirements.  As such, TDOT then terminated all Tennessee CDLs as being invalid.  

Swift vigorously contested both the factual and class allegations, insisting that it had done nothing wrong. It also claimed that it was immune from suit, an argument which, had the district court accepted, would have left 9,500 trucking students with no remedy. See Ham v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 694 F. Supp. 2d 915 (W.D. Tenn. 2010)(order denying Swift’s motion to dismiss).

Our firm tracked down the CDL testers formerly employed by Swift who provided testimony that they intentionally cut corners by eliminating a number of state required CDL testing procedures because there simply too many students to properly test; they also confirmed that Swift’s upper management knew of and approved of this corner cutting.  

Among numerous arguments against class certification, Swift contended that an unknown portion of the class members knew of and acquiesced in the errant testing procedures conducted by Swift employees, thereby accepting CDLs to which they were not entitled. Accordingly, under the doctrine of in pari delicto, Swift claimed that no class action should be certified because only individual trials would establish whether a given class member was partially at fault with respect to Swift’s testing.  

Despite Swift’s opposition, the federal district court granted class certification. Ham v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 275 F.R.D. 475 (W.D. Tenn. 2011). Swift sought permission to appeal the district court’s certification decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was denied.  Ham v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., No. 11-508 (6th Cir. Nov. 11, 2011). Following extensive post-certification discovery, we were able to obtain a multi-million dollar settlement on behalf of the class whereby Swift agreed to write off $17 million in unpaid student loans and provide up to $650 to each class member for certain damages supported in the claims process. For more information go to www.cdlsettlement.com