Owner-operators say they've been had

Randy Millsap, CEO of Millsap & Son Trucking (USDOT 696423, MC 322613) of Emory, TX, is the target of allegations that he did not pay a number of owner-operators for loads they hauled. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) began receiving complaints about Millsap in 1999. Each leased owner-operator pays a designated amount per month to Millsap rather than a percentage of freight revenues (or a stated per mile rate) as most other carriers do. According to Randy Millsap, currently his owner-operators are charged $1,375 per month, and that figure includes insurance.Some owner-operators describe Millsap's operation as "renting" authority. They say they found their own loads from a list of brokers and contacts supplied by Millsap. Millsap handles all invoicing and collects freight charges. When Land Line asked Millsap to confirm this, he became upset about the use of the term 'renting authority.' "We don't do business that way," he said.When asked if he supplied his owner-operators with a list of brokers to load through, he acknowledged that he used to do this but has discontinued the practice, saying that each truck is dispatched by his office.Millsap's lease, in clear violation of federal leasing regulations that require payment within 15 days, specifies that leased owner-operators will be paid only when Millsap has been paid. When Land Line asked if he was aware that this provision in the lease was a violation of federal regulations, Millsap did not directly answer the question. "Most loads pay within 14 days," was all he would say.OOIDA's business services department has been contacted by 20 owner-operators who say Millsap failed to pay them for all or part of the loads they hauled. When financial hardship forced owner-operators to break their leases, they say Millsap never paid a final settlement and insisted they still owed monthly lease fees for the remainder of their leases.

Although a few of these owner-operators have filed suit against Millsap, most have been unable to find lawyers willing to take their cases or initiate a class action suit. Attorneys they have contacted require substantial retainer fees (something these financially strapped owner-operators don't have) or claim they don't have the resources to handle a class action suit. OOIDA is continuing to investigate owner-operator allegations against Millsap & Son.

Lost their home Richard Linehan of Clarkston, WA, leased his truck to Millsap & Son on Oct. 26, 1999. He agreed to pay Millsap $1,375 a month. On Dec. 2, 1999, Linehan notified the carrier in writing that he was terminating the lease agreement and advised that permits, etc. were being returned by mail. Linehan included an invoice totaling $10,475.57 for loads he hauled during October and November. The total reflected deductions for advances and a $500 charge (specified in the lease) for early termination of the lease.A letter from Randy Millsap demanded instead that Linehan pay for the balance of the lease plus the $500 early lease termination fee. Millsap gave Linehan 10 days to pay $5,149.43."We indicated we would pay the lease termination fee," Elizabeth Linehan told Land Line. "But the idea that we should also pay out the remainder of the lease is outrageous. The lease was terminated."The Linehans' troubles had just begun. When they leased on with another carrier after leaving Millsap, that carrier couldn't keep the truck loaded and they had to change leases again."It was four months before we had a decent settlement check," she said. "Our experience with Millsap started a downward spiral that cost us our savings, our reefer trailer, and our home." As of June 21, the Linehans say Millsap still had not paid them for the loads they hauled.

When asked about conditions for terminating the lease, Randy Millsap told Land Line that the lease could only be terminated after the first year. He indicated he holds the owner-operators to the lease because of expenses like permits and overhead associated with leasing them on. "It's the cost of doing business," he said.

Hard times Jimmy McSwain of Center, TX, leased on with Millsap Sept. 3, 1999, and terminated the lease on March 8, 2000. McSwain agreed to pay $1,375 (including insurance) to Millsap every month."It was three months before I got a check, then money just trickled in and it was never close to what he owed me," says McSwain. "He said no checks came in for the loads I hauled, and it was in the lease that I didn't get paid until he did. It really put me in a financial bind."

McSwain estimates that Millsap still owes him $19,500.

Leevell Henry of Willard, NC, said he leased on with Millsap on Jan. 4, 2000, and six weeks later still hadn't been paid. He terminated his lease on Feb. 10. Henry says when he asked to be paid for the loads he hauled, Millsap told him he owes for the remainder of the lease. Henry still has not received a settlement from Millsap. No money, plus the added strain of high fuel prices, has been a real hardship, says Henry.Cecil and Liz McCoy of Quitman, TX, leased on with Millsap on Oct. 13, and terminated their lease on Dec. 1, 1999. Cecil says during that time, they received only one check and they had to "beg" to get that."We had to cash in our IRA just to pay our bills," he says.The McCoys estimate Millsap owes them $9,300.

Looking to the courts On March 24, 2000, Glen Bullock of Lone Star, TX, filed suit in Morris County, TX, alleging that Millsap owes him more than $35,000. Bullock first leased on with Millsap in November 1998, and at one time had six trucks running under Millsap's authority. According to Bullock, in February of this year Millsap terminated the lease because he wouldn't agree to sign the trucks on for another year. At the same time, Bullock says Millsap stopped payment on a settlement check for $4,600. According to Bullock, Millsap has not paid the $4,600 or settled for other outstanding loads.

Won their case but still waiting to collect Omer and Ora Cormier of Westfield, MA, leased on with Millsap in January 1999. A disagreement over the third load they hauled set the stage for "bad feelings" that caused the Cormiers to terminate their lease in August. The Cormiers say Millsap gave them a list of brokers to use to find loads when they leased on, but told them not to use anyone on it without getting approval first. They say they did get approval to haul a load for one of the brokers on the list, but Millsap said they didn't and refused to pay them for the load."It was so hard to get money out of him," Ora Comier told Land Line. "We didn't like the way he handled things, so we gave oral and 30 days written notice we were terminating the lease. He never paid us for the last two loads we hauled, plus the third one he said we didn't get an OK on."

The Cormiers filed suit against Millsap early this year in Massachusetts small claims court. Millsap did not appear in court. Three default judgments against Millsap totaling $5,513 (including courts costs) for the three loads were entered on April 12, 2000. The court ordered Millsap to pay the charges by May 10.

Land Line asked Randy Millsap about these judgments against him. "I don't have the time to waste going to court in Boston or wherever it was. If I go to court, it will be right here in Range County."When Millsap did not pay by the due date, the Cormiers obtained an order of execution to collect on the judgment. The Cormiers say they expect Texas authorities to act on the order soon.

Millsap demands payment Frank Pecoraro of Flushing, NY, leased on with Millsap on Jan. 26, 2000, and hauled his last load on April 17. He agreed to pay Millsap $1,375 a month including insurance. Pecoraro is still waiting for $7,453.10 he says is owed to him for loads he hauled. According to Pecoraro, Millsap said he had not received payment for the loads. Pecoraro contacted the brokers involved and verified that each and every load had been paid, but Millsap still hasn't paid Pecoraro. Pecoraro nearly lost his tractor and trailer and had to dip into the family's savings and his daughter's college fund to pay household bills.Pecoraro was astounded to learn that Millsap was not only not going to pay him $7,453.10, but wanted Pecoraro to cough up thousands more. In a letter dated June 22, William E. Henderson, an attorney in Madisonville, KY, demanded payment of $12,375 on Millsap's behalf. An attached "lease termination form" shows that Millsap is charging Pecoraro $1,375 for each of the nine months left on Pecoraro's lease after he quit hauling for Millsap. The letter gives Pecoraro 15 days to pay (or make arrangements to pay) the full amount.Willie Austin of Hubert, NC, also received a demand letter from Millsap's attorney. Millsap expects Austin to come up with $11,000 for the eight months that remained on his lease when it was terminated in April.

Austin leased on with Millsap in December 1999. He told Land Line that he was treated very well at first, but he started hearing about problems with pay at Millsap from other drivers. Austin says he didn't get a check until the middle of February and that it was $4,500 short of what he was owed. Austin insisted he get his money, and said whenever Millsap told him the brokers hadn't paid, Austin called the brokers. Austin says he did manage to collect most of what he was owed, but contends Millsap still owes him $3,375 for loads he hauled.

Land Line asked Randy Millsap specifically about Austin's allegations. Millsap said he was suing Austin and said, "[Austin] had three or four little loads outstanding and we deducted that from what he owes us for the remainder of his lease."

- Ruth Jones, senior editor