Fuel Smarts

Pilot Flying J Faces More Litigation, Responds to Reports of Financial Health

August 12, 2013

By Evan Lockridge

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Not every fleet that feels it has been cheated by Pilot Flying J is signing on to a recent settlement. (Photo by Evan Lockridge)
Not every fleet that feels it has been cheated by Pilot Flying J is signing on to a recent settlement. (Photo by Evan Lockridge)

Despite having reached a settlement with some trucking customers, Pilot Flying J faces new litigation over claims it cheated some operations – and there is another move to depose CEO Jimmy Haslam.

Attorneys for Georgia-based Harold David Story, doing business as Cedar Creek Trucking, have filed the suit in Knox County Circuit Court in Knoxville, Tenn., where the truckstop chain is based.

In addition to Haslam, attorneys want to depose on videotape, company President Mark Hazelwood, Vice-President John Freeman and spokesperson Tom Ingram. Ingram is a lobbyist and is a consultant to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, brother to Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam.

Cedar Creek has indicated it is not interested in participating in the recent settlement reached between Pilot Flying J and trucking customers. The settlement has received initial approval by a federal judge in Arkansas, with a fairness hearing set for later in the year. Anyone who has claims against Pilot Flying J but does not want to be a part of the settlement has to opt-out.

The firm representing Cedar Creek is they attorney of record for another carrier suing Pilot Flying J, Atlantic Coast Carriers. It also wants to depose Pilot Flying J executives, but the company has objected, while a judge has yet to rule on the matter

The Cedar Creek complaint, like many of the more than 20 lawsuits that have been filed against Pilot Flying J, cites the FBI affidavit used to secure search warrants against the company in an April raid in Knoxville. It says Pilot Flying J embarked on a scheme to cheat trucking customers out of rebates and discounts on fuel purchases to inflate company profits.

While Pilot Flying J has denied any wrongdoing, seven current or former employees have pleaded guilty to federal charges and are reportedly cooperating with investigators as part of an ongoing criminal probe.

Meantime, Pilot Flying J continues taking to the web with its side of the story. Chief Financial Officer Mitch Steenrod says the company has lost little business in the second quarter of the year and is financially stronger than many people might believe.

“We were down approximately 0.5% in diesel volume in the second quarter verses our budgeted diesel volume,” he said. “Part of the volume decline is definitely due to a weaker than anticipated economic environment. In fact, TA (Travel Centers of America) just released its second quarter earnings that reflected its second quarter same store sales volumes were down 3.6%."

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