Business

CRST awarded $15.5 million over competitor's alleged truck driver poaching

A CRST student driver truck is seen at the National American Driver Training Academy in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Students from around the country learn to drive at the school before being hired to drive for Cedar Rapids-based CRST. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A CRST student driver truck is seen at the National American Driver Training Academy in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Students from around the country learn to drive at the school before being hired to drive for Cedar Rapids-based CRST. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

A federal jury awarded CRST Expedited $15.5 million in damages in connection with reported truck driver poaching by Arizona-based Swift Transportation.

The judgment Swift must pay, ordered on July 23, breaks down into $3 million for interference with drivers’ contracts, $5 million in punitive damages and $7.5 million for unjust enrichment.

Cedar Rapids-based CRST sued Swift in March 2017, alleging it actively was recruiting and hiring drivers CRST paid to put through its training program to receive commercial driver’s licenses, in exchange for contractual agreements that they would not work for a competitor for a 10-month period, according to court documents.

CRST identified 250 drivers who signed such contracts and later were recruited by Swift, the court documents from the Northern District of Iowa show.

The Cedar Rapids company said Swift sent it 150 employment verification requests for drivers subject to the contracts in 2016. Under U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, trucking companies must send those requests to all other trucking companies where candidates have worked in the preceding three years.

Each time it received an employment verification request from Swift, CRST said, it wrote back and advised of its existing contract.

That Swift knew of the contracts and continued to recruit the CRST drivers constituted an effort to rob CRST of its prospective economic advantage from training them, and during a shortage of licensed new drivers in the industry, its attorneys argued in the documents.

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CRST Expedited currently has more than 3,500 drivers who operate upward of 4,500 trucks on short- and long-haul shipments in the lower 48 states and Mexico, its website says.

• Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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