If you’ve worked in the trucking business for a while, you may have heard of CRST and the North American Driver Training Academy.
If not, what you need to know is that CRST recruits, hires, and trains people to work as long-haul truck drivers. People who participate in the program pay for thousands of dollars in “tuition” and promise that they’ll work for CRST for a ten-month period of time after “graduating.”
When we were contacted by one of CRST’s former drivers in 2016, we thought that certain aspects of the driver training program sounded dubious. And after three years of litigation, a federal judge agreed: in September 2019, Chief Judge Patti B. Saris of the United States District Court for Massachusett ruled that CRST is liable for violating state consumer protection laws, and state and federal wage laws, with respect to its Driver Training Program.
In her 80-page decision, Chief Judge Saris held that CRST owes drivers wages for time spent in a several-day unpaid orientation program, and that the time truck drivers spend in the sleeper berth of their trucks is compensable working time after eight hours. Chief Judge Saris determined that a number of advertising and marketing practices utilized by CRST to recruit drivers for its Driver Training Program violated the Iowa Consumer Frauds Act. Among other practices declared unlawful, the Court held that CRST had misrepresented to drivers that the tuition for truck driving school was $6,500, when in fact CRST had paid the truck driving schools only $1,400 to $2,500 per driver. As the Court held:
“Leaving drivers with the impression that it loaned them $6,500 for the cost of driver training school, when in fact the cost was thousands of dollars lower, is a deceptive practice in violation of Iowa’s consumer frauds act.”
Finally, the Court held that CRST’s practice of sending debt collection letters to drivers threatening to charge 18% interest on their “debt” to CRST could constitute a violation of the Iowa usury law, which prohibits the charging of such exorbitant interest rates.
Hillary Schwab, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said of the decision:
This is a resounding victory for workers. These truck drivers for CRST have been working in arduous jobs for very little money and have had thousands of dollars of unfair debt hanging over their heads. Chief Judge Saris’ decision will afford these drivers the compensation that they deserve for their hard work and will hopefully put an end to the misleading practices that CRST has used to try to lure drivers into these low-paying jobs and keep them there.
The Court’s decision affects tens of thousands of individuals who have worked as truck drivers for CRST over the past several years and have not received all wages owed to them and have been the victims of CRST’s unfair and deceptive practices.