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Crawford v. Professional Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division

March 22, 2017

MARCUS E. CRAWFORD, individually and on behalf of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
PROFESSIONAL TRANSPORTATION, INC. and RONALD D. ROMAIN, individually and as president and secretary of PROFESSIONAL TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DECERTIFY AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STRIKE

          RICHARD L. YOUNG, JUDGE

         Proposed Class Representative Marcus Crawford[1], the Plaintiff herein, seeks to recover “overtime compensation and minimum wages for work activity performed by over the road [OTR] drivers” employed by Defendant, Professional Transportation, Inc. (“PTI”). His Complaint seeks damages based upon seven different theories for alleged underpayment of minimum wages and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). His Complaint also alleges that as an OTR driver, he was misclassified as exempt under the FLSA and not treated as eligible for overtime at all. Finally, his Complaint alleges that he was not properly paid mileage for all miles driven.

         On April 10, 2014, the court conditionally certified this matter as a collective action pursuant to the parties' stipulation. The conditional class is defined as all current and former employees of Professional Transportation, Inc. who worked as OTR drivers at any time from February 11, 2011 to present with outstanding claims for wages. (Filing No. 33, Order).

         On July 18, 2016, Defendants, PTI and PTI President Ronald D. Romain, filed the present Motion to Decertify Collective Action. On November 11, 2016, Defendants moved to strike certain evidence submitted by Plaintiff in his Response. In addition, the parties orally argued their positions on March 16, 2017. The court, having considered the parties' oral argument and reviewed their submissions, the designated evidence, and the applicable law, now finds Defendants' Motion to Decertify should be GRANTED and Defendants' Motion to Strike should be GRANTED in part and DENIED as MOOT in part.

         I. Facts

         A. Background Regarding PTI

         PTI provides OTR and dedicated yard van crew transportation services to customers in the railroad industry across the United States, including CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Amtrak, and more recently, BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific Railroad, Utah Railway, and Portland and Western Railroad. (Filing No. 283-3, Declaration of Taraha Baum (“Baum Decl.”) ¶¶ 5-7).

         PTI's drivers work out of more than 300 branch offices located in forty different states. (Id. ¶ 11). Branch offices vary in size, from having as few as one driver to as many as 174 drivers. (Id. ¶ 13). Management of PTI's branch offices varies too. For example, 47 branches currently have a dedicated Branch Manager responsible for managing an entire branch. (Id. ¶ 19). Fifty-six branches currently share a Branch Manager, and 30 branches currently have an Assistant Branch Manager. (Id.).

         Before July 1, 2011, PTI classified its OTR drivers as exempt from the FLSA's overtime pay requirements pursuant to the Motor Carrier Exemption. (Id. ¶ 28). Since July 1, 2011, PTI has treated OTR drivers as non-exempt. (Id. ¶ 29).

         B. PTI's Van Inspection Policy Before May 1, 2013

         Before May 1, 2013, PTI's Driver's Manual directed drivers to inspect their assigned vehicle before each OTR trip. (Filing No. 283-4, Declaration of Steven Greulich (“Greulich Decl.”) ¶¶ 8-9). Before June 2012, OTR drivers recorded trips, mileage, wait time, [2] and working time on handwritten trip vouchers. (Baum Decl. ¶ 31). Included on the voucher was a “Pre-Trip Checklist” of nine vehicle inspection items and a column for drivers to record their “Start Time, ” “Stop Time, ” and “Total Time” associated with the inspection. (Id., Ex. D). The pre-May 2013 Driver's Manual contained a list of instructions to be used by drivers to complete written trip vouchers- including a directive that the “Pre-Trip Checklist” was to be provided by the driver. (Greulich Decl. ¶¶ 8-9, Ex. B at 29-30, Ex. C at 31-32). According to PTI, if conducted and inspected correctly, the inspection should take a driver no more than two minutes. (Baum Decl. ¶ 31).

         PTI drivers reported the information included on the trip voucher by telephone to PTI's dispatchers. (Id. ¶ 34). Dispatchers recorded drivers' trip information into a centralized database for the purpose of processing driver pay. (Id.). Drivers were not required to report to dispatch the “Start Time, ” “Stop Time, ” and “Total Time” for their inspections. (Id.).

         In addition, before June 2012, drivers were also asked to complete a daily Van Inspection Checklist. (Id. ¶ 36, Ex. F). The Checklist asked drivers to review ten categories of inspection items and indicate whether those items passed or failed. (Id.). The Checklist also included the date of the inspection, branch, vehicle number, driver's name, and the starting and ending miles of the vehicle. (Id.). The Checklist did not ask drivers to record the stop, start, or total time associated with the inspection. (Id.). If conducted and performed correctly, the inspection and Checklist should be completed in less than five minutes. (Id. ¶ 37). PTI drivers were required to turn in this Checklist to PTI's Fleet Manager or Assistant Manager. (See, e.g., Filing No. 296-31, Deposition of Marcus Crawford (“Crawford Dep.”) at 60). Consequently, prior to May 2013, PTI did not track OTR driver time spent in pre-trip safety inspections. (Filing No. 296-30, Deposition of Tahara Baum (“Baum Dep.”) at 91-92).

         In June 2012, PTI began rolling out the Crew Mobile system, a touch screen computer system installed in each vehicle that allowed OTR drivers to report mileage, wait time, and working time to PTI in real time. (Baum Decl. ¶ 39). Crew Mobile allows drivers to record vehicle inspections instead of using written vouchers or the Inspection Checklist. (Id.). Phased-in installation of the Crew Mobile system at each branch occurred between March and December 2012. (Id. ¶ 40).

         Plaintiff testified that the Crew Mobile system rarely worked for purposes of reporting a vehicle inspection because the screen frequently locked after a trip was accepted into the system. (Crawford Dep. at 136-39). Therefore, inspections were typically reported manually. (Id. at 139). Taraha Baum, Senior Director of Operations Accounting, testified that if a trip was closed manually (i.e., not on Crew Mobile), inspections times were not reported to the dispatcher. (Baum Dep. at 77) (“Q: Are inspection times recorded on the - are they reported to the dispatchers? A: No.”).

         C. PTI's Van Inspection Policy After May 1, 2013

         In March 2013, the Work Rules Management Team recommended that PTI revise the Driver's Manual to require vehicle inspections to be completed at the end of each OTR trip, when the driver was refueling the vehicle (the “End-of-Trip Inspection Policy”). (Baum Decl. ¶ 42). The purpose of the revision was twofold: (1) to ensure that vehicle inspections were actually completed; and (2) to ensure that any time drivers spent performing the inspections would be recorded in the event inspection time was not deemed to be de minimis (i.e., 10 minutes or less) under federal wage and hour law. (Id.).

         The following month, PTI created the Pay Practices Team to revise the Driver's Manual to reflect the new policy. (Id. ¶ 43). The Pay Practices Team published three documents: (1) “Notice to Drivers”; (2) “Revisions to Published Policies”; and (3) a revised Driver's Manual, all of which explained the End-of-Trip Inspection Policy and related procedures. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44, Exs. H, I, and J at 10, 33). The Pay Practices Team distributed these documents to PTI's General Managers, who held conference calls with their Branch Managers to explain the work rule changes at the end of April 2013. (Id. ¶ 45). In May 2013, the Pay Practices Team distributed these documents to branch management. (Id. ¶ 46). And in August and September 2013, the Pay Practices Team distributed paper copies of the revised Driver's Manual, which included the End-of-Trip Inspection Policy-to every OTR driver. (Id. ¶ 47). Each driver was expected to sign forms acknowledging their receipt of the same. (Id.).

         In addition, Tammi Hinkley, PTI's corporate trainer, conducted management training from October 2012 to May 1, 2013. (Filing No. 283-7, Declaration of Tammi Hinkley ¶ 13). During her training, she discovered that many branch managers were not properly training their OTR drivers to complete vehicle inspections pursuant to the Branch Manager Training Manual. (Id.). She therefore developed the Branch Manager Training Program to train newly hired general managers and branch managers. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16).

         Despite this training, the evidence reflects that not all branches were following this policy. (See, e.g., Filing No. 283-3, Email dated October 13, 2015). Therefore, in 2015, PTI conducted a series of meetings between departmental leadership in Evansville and regional and branch management in the field. (Baum Decl. ¶ 57). During a meeting on October 13, 2015, a branch manager from the Philadelphia branch indicated that his drivers were completing two inspections, one at the beginning of the trip and one at the end of the trip. (Id. ¶ 58). The following week, at the request of PTI President Romain, Baum conducted a teleconference with all branch managers present at the October 13 meeting to review PTI's End-of-Trip Inspection Policy. (Id. ¶ 59).

         D. The Present Action

         This lawsuit was filed on February 11, 2014. (Filing No. 1, Complaint). Plaintiff's counsel was provided with the names of 19, 996 potential Opt-In Plaintiffs. The Legal Notice, filed in conjunction with the ...


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