The Arizona Supreme Court cleared the way for a driver lawsuit against Swift Transportation that could have big ramifications for how trucking companies pay drivers.
The state high court on Aug. 31 rejected Swift’s petition to review a lower court decision allowing its drivers to pursue a class-action lawsuit arguing they were underpaid.
Drivers argue the company’s per mile pay formula based on point-to-point mileages from a moving industry mileage guide does not reflect the actual miles driven.
A victory by the drivers could spur trucking companies to abandon point-to-point mileages when calculating driver pay, which could increase pay 5 to 10 percent on average. That could increase the rates paid by shippers.
For Swift, a defeat could involve back pay for company drivers and owner operators stretching back as far as 1998.
The Superior Court of Arizona for Maricopa County granted the lawsuit class action status last November. Rob Carey, a partner with Seattle-based Hagens Bergman, which represents the drivers, said the case could go to trial within one to two years.
Phoenix-based Swift Transportation, a $2.6 billion company and the nation’s largest truckload carrier, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was first filed by an owner-operator in 2004 and has followed a long route through Arizona’s courts.
The class action lawsuit claims Swift underpaid drivers as much as 7 to 10 percent for more than decade by basing its per mile pay on point-to-point distances between locations rather than actual miles traveled over interstate highways and roads.
Those point-to-point locations are derived from the Official Transportation Mileage Guide or Household Goods Mileage Guide published by Rand McNally since the 1930s. The mileages are widely used by all types of truckers to set pricing.