Cash Crisis
Failure to launch
Flawed online banking conversion leaves truckers without a financial lifeline

By Clarissa Kell-Hollandstaff writer

During the 18 months before launching its new online banking system, TAB Bank Inc. of Ogden, UT, says it made every effort to notify its customers of the upcoming changes that were designed to “move TAB Bank to an industry-leading banking system.”

However, when the new banking system went live on Feb. 26, it locked all of the customers out of their accounts. Unable to use TAB cards for fuel or access funds in their accounts, countless small-business truckers were stranded across the country until their account issues were resolved.

In the first two days after the conversion, Eric Myers, director of marketing for TAB Bank, told Land Line the bank received more than 40,000 phone calls from customers who were locked out of the new system.

“A normal day is around 1,000 calls,” he said.

TAB, formerly Transportation Alliance Bank, is a wholly owned subsidiary of FJ Management Inc.

FJ Management also has an ownership stake in Pilot Flying J.

Panicked truckers say they tried to reach customer service representatives at TAB, but Myers said their phone system was unable to handle the “unforeseen” call volume. Some TAB customers told Land Line they tried calling for days, but only received a busy signal or an “all circuits are busy” message.

As of press time, TAB Bank was still working “around the clock” to remedy some of the glitches that arose during the initial banking system upgrade.

Since the switch, truckers say they watched their profits dwindle because they were unable to access their accounts. Some lost customers and valuable loads because they couldn’t buy fuel or get money to their drivers stranded on the road under loads.

In early March, OOIDA Member James Dean of Anamosa, IA, had two drivers who were stranded in Kentucky and Indiana without fuel. A third truck was scheduled to go out that same week, but he kept it home because of the fuel problem.

“I put all of my eggs in one basket, did all of my business banking with them, and now I can’t access anything,” Dean said in March.

Dean said he spent hours on the phone for more than five days before some of the problems with his account were fixed.

Instead of finding loads for his drivers so they could provide for their families, Dean said he spent critical time on hold to TAB Bank trying to get fuel to his stranded drivers.

“It’s frustrating. I maintain my equipment, my drivers get the job done, and my customers know I don’t take loads unless I know I can do the job,” Dean said.

In the days following the software upgrade, OOIDA Life Member Bill Goodwin of Murrieta, CA, was using his personal credit card to buy fuel for his three trucks that were stranded out on the road.

His frustration was that he couldn’t speak to anyone at TAB for days as he continued “feeding” his trucks with his own personal money.

“Unfortunately, I am not in Ogden, UT, where I could just walk into the bank and demand answers,” he said. “This is crippling.”

Although OOIDA Member Kia Goldberg of Cincinnati, OH, said she was able to fix the password issue hours after the upgrade before many were even aware there was an issue, she said the problems with her account were far from over.

The timing of the upgrade couldn’t have come at a worse time, Goldberg said. All of their automatic payments set up through their TAB account that were scheduled to go out on March 1, but were denied.

Her husband, Michael Goldberg, was out on the road when he found out that his fuel card through TAB wasn’t working. Even though the fuel desk swiped his card four times, he did not get any fuel. However, his account was debited for fuel all four times.

“We finally got that fixed, but then we found other issues,” Kia said.

For weeks after the upgrade, Goldberg said their account balances kept showing phantom charges and that deposits were showing up as withdrawals and vice versa. Money for an auto loan payment was also being deducted from their account. The Goldbergs didn’t have any loans through TAB Bank.

Myers said that TAB and their software providers still have teams working around the clock to identify and resolve issues. He said the bank has increased staff to “meet customer demands,” but that “the complexity of the conversion and the limitations of the phone network have slowed our desired progress.”

TAB customers were directed to email their concerns because Myers said their phone network provider was not set up to handle the volume of calls they have received since the conversion.

In late March, some TAB customers said they were still unable to get an accurate account balance and were waiting on bank statements to be mailed to them.

OOIDA Life Members C.E. and Donna Knox of Alvarado, TX, said that fortunately the TAB account wasn’t their primary account, but that they set aside money for emergencies or to pay off bills.

“This is an out of sight, out of mind account,” he said. “We put some extra money in this account for the mortgage or to pay off a car, but what we do have in the account we don’t want to lose.”

“Our account shows us one minute as being negative $500 to being positive $1,500 the next time we log in and we haven’t used it,” C.E. said.

After approximately 30 hours on the phone with TAB for nearly a month, one small-business owner said his major problem with being “double-dinged” for pre-authorizations and again for transactions was finally fixed.

No backup plan

Many truckers admit they had multiple accounts with TAB Bank, which specializes in serving the transportation industry. When they were locked out of their accounts, they had no backup plan to access operating cash.

One of the problems with the new system was that it failed to link accounts “between the core and online systems and card authorization issues,” Myers said.

“Like many complex undertakings, there were issues that arose during the final conversion that did not occur during the tests,” he said.

It is still unclear just how many TAB Bank customers were affected by the conversion – or were financially damaged because they were unable to do business for days, or weeks, because of the upgrade.

Some TAB customers have filed complaints with both the Utah Department of Financial Institutions and the FDIC. Some say they have moved their funds from TAB Bank or have established a backup account with another bank “just in case” something like this happens again.

Eva Rees, supervisor for the consumer credit and compliance department of the Utah Department of Financial Institutions, said in late March that she had fielded many calls from TAB customers who had concerns with their accounts, but that she could not give a specific number regarding complaints that had been filed.

Under Utah law, where TAB Bank is located, complaints are not public information.

She said the DFI does an annual safety and soundness examination of financial institutions in the state, but that the results of an examination are not public.

A spokeswoman with the FDIC said that if TAB Bank customers have questions concerning their accounts, they can call the FDIC Call Center at 877-275-3342 or the Utah Department of Financial Institutions.

TAB offers discounts, waives some fees

Myers said that TAB has corrected the majority of the problems that originally existed after the software upgrade. However, he added that software personnel were still working to remedy some of the issues in mid-April.

TAB waived all customer service call-in fees for the month of March and also waived insufficient fund (NSF) fees for overdrafts, returned checks and over-the-limit fees incurred between Feb. 26 and March 23.

Through the end of May, Myers said that truckers who use their TAB cards will receive a 4-cent-per-gallon discount, instead of the standard 2-cent-per-gallon discount, at all Pilot Flying J locations.

Many TAB customers are still cautious when using their TAB Bank cards and are watching their statements for “phantom charges.”

“Things aren’t perfect, but they are better,” said Kia Goldberg. “We are lucky; we just have one truck. This is going to be hard for some companies to recover.” LL