Stand Up To Your Dispatcher, Win $90,000!


A judge for the US Department of Labor ordered Cargo Express Inc, based out of Boise, ID, to immediately reinstate a driver named Thomas Graff and pay him $90,000 in back wages and punitive damages after he was fired by his company when he refused to drive him truck due to unsafe maintenance issues.

“When he (Graff) refused to drive the truck due to the oil leak and the air leak, he was told by Qualcomm message to either drive the truck or they would find someone else who would,” said Graff’s attorney. “This puts drivers between a rock and a hard spot.”

Despite being told in no uncertain terms that he would be fired if he didn’t continue driving, Graff stood his ground. True to their word, Graff was fired, but the reason the company gave was for not having an adequate number of miles.

Unwilling to be steamrolled, Graff took Cargo Express to court and –on April Fool’s Day!–  won his case.

In addition to his reinstatement and monetary compensation, as part of the ruling Cargo Express will have to pay his attorney’s fees and “remove any adverse or derogatory references” on his HireRight (DAC) report.

We all know that when a driver sticks his neck out like this, he gets burned all too often. It’s important to remember that when you’re told to run illegally or put yourself or others in danger, it is absolutely an option to plant your feet and stand your ground. Good on you, Thomas Graff, good on you.


Next Story: Company Owes $58.5 Million After Crash By Poorly Trained Driver

Source: landline

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33 comments. Add a comment.

  1. Don Dierdorff says

    This scene goes on millions of times every day across the country, but almost always with disasterous results for the driver because companies know they can get away with it. Because of extreme double standards, if something disasterous happens, the dispatcher only has to resort to saying “driver’s responsibility.”

  2. Randy says

    My prior employer knew my AC went out last summer going into Vegas 2 days ahead of my next load going to Napa Vally (truck had an intermittent AC issue for over a year) it was 106 when i delivered load in Vegas and still no AC Company owner told me that regardless if i took truck to shop in vegas which they did not want that i better have my load in Napa Valley on time or get on a plane and go home! even though i had to drive through the Mohave desert Needless to say, i no longer work there. i was terminated 2 months later after i hot hurt and reported injury to WC. I will be in court with the company for several things over the next year.

      • Frank says

        True is isint technically a DOT violation, it does fall under the driver safety and fit for duty rules, if a driver is not well rested or alter he is a safety risk. Certainly inoperable AC in a 106 degree environment will affect attentiveness.

  3. LGO says

    Great … I am so glad there are drivers out there who have balls to fight. I am a fighter myself and don’t take any crap from dispatchers, companies, brokers, etc. Don’t let them blame everything on you. It’s a common practice and one of the industry scams; blaming everything on the driver. It has never worked with me and it never will.

  4. Techslave says

    I recently found out that the company sending you the Qualcomm messages owns those messages and they can delete them at will from their side. Unless they are a large company with specific policies stating when and how old messages can be discarded. So be advised! Take a photograph of any messages you could use in court. Most of us have phones with a camera on them they usually work well to photograph what’s written on a Qualcomm. Don’t count on being able to demand copies of old messages later for evidence they may be gone to by that time.

  5. John says

    I used to work for Cargo Express also. They are a bunch if crooks who do their best to take every dime they can get out if the drivers. They tried to get 8 thousand out of me. They even started taking money out of my check for a load another driver dumped over. I just quit and found new employment probably should have faught more.

  6. Gary says

    Another tool a driver can use is the Android based app that records phone calls, either to or from pre-entered phone numbers or at the touch of a button. Makes it very dificult for a dispatcher, fleet manager, safety staff to deny they gave a directive that is illegal when they were recorded doing so. The driver who turned me onto the app was specifically directed to violate HOS or be terminated. The person giving the directive was the owner of the comp’s son. When safety heard the message they sang a different tune. Daddy’z boy is now a terminal manager so little has probably changed but my buddy did not violate and rather enjoyed the whole event.

    • Paul Taylor says

      Some people at Cargo appear to have had a conscience about this including the then Operations Manager.

  7. Stew says

    Another reason we need unions! This guy would never have been fired for refusing to take equipment that isn’t road worthy. The article doesn’t say how long this guy had to wait for his money.

      • Steven Goodykoontz says

        They have the right to appeal, but what they did was unsafe and could have cost the driver his life, license or job.

        • Paul Taylor says

          If they appeal I think it is very highly likely that the driver will win. On appeal, the appellate body (in this case DOL’s Administrative Review Board), cannot reweight evidence. Decisions are typically only reversed on appeal if there was an error of law by the trial court that could have or would have resulted in a different outcome.

          Paul Taylor

          • Steven Goodykoontz says

            Have you seen a lot of cases like this? I have seen it first hand. I didn’t get fired, but my dispatcher tried to make me drive when I had something very wrong with my truck.

  8. bilbo baggins says

    If I had the goods with a recorded conversations that I used in a hassle with safety I would not erase that tape. In the future you may once again have to tell safety to go intercourse themselves and that would be good leverage.

  9. john fortner says

    who do i get a hold of about dispatcher telling me to contiue on when im on my 34 hr restart i have text messages still in my phone i waited till could legal drive got unloaded reloaded back to 100 miles from yard and got fired for not delivering on time i just want him fired

  10. pattyj says

    Way to go Mr.Graff,If drivers would do what this driver did and sue their company,then more and more companies would’nt continue to operate the way they do.If a company does me wrong,I don’t have a problem taking them to court.

  11. MIKE says

    My first company that I worked for told me to pull an illegal trailer down the road on the phone but I refused due to a weight station down the road that could be open. This weight station had a reputation for odd hours.
    To top it off the shipper had a no overnight parking on their property.
    I refused to move the truck and trailer when I was on the phone with breakdown they told me to take it to a truck shop because the costs to have a repair person reach me would be too costly.
    I told breakdown it could be even more costly for me to get caught with missing required equipment. Basically I had one missing mud flap and the other one nearly torn off most likely done by the shipper because they would have several trailers at their property that they would shag up to the dock to load then they would stage them for us out back.
    I had to sit there for several hours before someone reached me so instead of waiting in the drivers seat I crawled into the bunk for some sleep about 4 1/2 to 5 hours later the repair guy showed up pounded on my truck said hey I am here to fix the trailer I said ok wake me when you are done about 2 hours go by he pounds on the truck again said it’s done I say thank you sign the paperwork then go finish sleeping.

  12. Paul Taylor says

    Mr. Graff’s case was brought under the employee protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act which prohibits retaliaiton by “a person” including an employer beause the employee:

    a. Refuses to drive in violation of a commercial vehicle safety regulation;
    b. Refuses to drive based upon a reasonable apprehension of serious injury;
    c. Files complaints with the government or an employer related to a violation of a commercial vehicle safety regulation;
    d. Accurately records on duty time his daily log.

    Charges by someone who believes he/she has been retaliated against must be file with Federal OSHA not later than 180 days after the act of relatation occurs.
    A successfuly complainant is entitled to reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages (if appropriate), attorney fees and costs, and abatement of the violations which may include an order to remove adverse information from DAC Report, and posting of the decision.

  13. TJ Graff says

    First off, thank you to the TruckersReport for writing the article here and allowing others to comment. Also, a very big thank you to Mr. Paul Taylor, , for representing me in this action against Cargo Express, Boise ID. Paul is the ultimate warrior when it comes to helping a driver that has been fired, disciplined or retaliated against for refusing to violate the DOT regs. I highly recommend him, if you find yourself in a similiar situation as found myself back in June, 2010.

    That’s right … I said June 2010 is when I was fired. It has been almost 3 years for this case to be decided upon … and it may still take longer, if Cargo Express appeals.

    It is also my understanding that Navajo Express now owns and operates Cargo Express, as of the sometime this year. The 2 major players in my firing, Dennis Schlaegel and Rob Zahm, are no longer with Cargo Express or Navajo Express. It is my understanding that Mr. Schlaegel retired and that Rob Zahm was fired for an unrelated issue.

    I want to thank all of you here at the, Dave Nemo, LandLine Magazine,,,, The Tampa Examiner , and other trucking publications that have helped spread the word about this decision regarding Cargo Express.

    And I especially want to thank all my fellow drivers here for you support and comments.

  14. Mark says

    Just a note-
    Not sure when this happened but Cargo Express is officially owned by Navajo as of the first of this year and not just a satellite company. I wonder if that makes Navajo obligated to pay or if it stays with the original owners? As far as the maintenance of trucks, we sure as heck don’t play that game- we can’t afford to. I never went into that terminal for work!

  15. George says

    Mark – that depends on the terms of the buyout contract. They may have a clause that states ‘all liabilities / legal blah blah to come from the insurance policy of exCargo Express’

    The amount is not very much so Navajo Express legal department, from a basic public relations standpoint and the desire to maintain clean books should just drop the entire thing – Win for the driver.

    If the payout amount was…say like $9 Million with a willful negligence attachment that got tied to Navajo Express from the actions of its employee and held Navajo Express culpable/responsible for compensation then there would be an appeal.

  16. Mark says

    So far, haven’t heard much about this case being whispered among the halls of power either in Denver or Phoenix- but then I suppose one has to actually be at one of these places to hear the whispers. As far as Cargo Express goes, they are running under their company banner till I believe the end of the year at which point they’ll have the option of becoming Navajo drivers or quit- which apparently several have already. It’s already having the effect of putting empty trucks on our lots- some of which are being bought by some of the smaller fleet owners in our extended system. Still going to be a lot of equipment to get rid of though I imagine on top of our own equipment turn over program.

    Mr. Graff- good luck to you in your future endeavors.

  17. Driver says

    I too worked for Cargo Express. They are without a doubt, the slimiest group in the industry. The abuses they put their drivers through would fill volumes. Hooray for Thomas Graff!

    • Paul Taylor says

      Cargo Express’s Vice-President, Robert Zahm, who made the decision to fire Mr. Graff, not the dispatcher. The Safety Manager executed the decision.

  18. Yarddog says

    I was driving for Star Transport 2006. Green first year out. A driver quit abandon his load. I was dispatched to P/U and deliver and I got reprimanded for not on time the load had sat for 3 days pass due.

  19. Sean Burk says

    So if it is 114 degrees and the ac in the truck doesn’t work can I get away with not taking it and win in court if fired for it

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