By Russ and Tiña De Maris
What could just be a hiccup for Marcus Lemonis and Camping World is turning into a major issue for more than 500 RV transporters. On Friday, October 11, nearly 550 independent contractors who work with Country Wide RV Transport (CWRV) got an unwelcome message: Come November 1, CWRV will roll up the sidewalks and close for good, leaving drivers and families without that source of income.
How is Lemonis involved? CWRV was the “exclusive” transporter for bringing RVs from manufacturer plants to Camping World locations. This means the giant RV seller will have to find another firm or firms to handle transport. This may create a short-term issue for Camping World, as the outfit will have to scramble to get transport in order. It might prove a bigger headache, as the RV transport industry has been “short” on drivers. Still, with a ready pool of more than 500 drivers suddenly out of work, once the shuffle of drivers to new contractors is settled, things should theoretically get back to normal.
Still, this will leave those former CWRV drivers in a bit of a pickle. As independents, they’ll have no unemployment insurance money to help them out until they can find new firms to contract with. Undoubtedly, many of them have mortgages to pay and truck payments to make, and everybody likes to eat. We wish all of them well in the interim.
What caused the CWRV shutdown? Back in 2017, one of CWRV’s “independent contractors” was returning home after dropping off a rig at an RV dealership. Along the road, he fell asleep, rear-ending a passenger car, killing a husband and his wife. The surviving family members took the matter to court, including CWRV as a defendant. The company argued in vain that it wasn’t responsible for an independent contractor’s actions, but a jury didn’t see it that way. They saw the driver as an “agent” of the company, and handed down a $26.2 million wrongful death judgment.
Turning back to Camping World’s “temporary” problem: If the trucking industry is any indicator, Lemonis’ company may not be out of the woods quite yet. The judgment against CWRV is yet another “nuclear verdict” – one where an award of $10 million or more is given. The trucking industry has seen many carriers shut down this year, and “nuclear verdicts” are one of the reasons.
Other firms engaged in transporting RVs may see the verdict against CWRV as a serious wake-up call and begin to question just how much liability they want hanging over their heads. It doesn’t take much of an imagination stretch to see some getting out of the business, or seriously jacking up transport rates to give themselves a financial – and emotional – cushion against an adverse judgment, should one of their own contractors create a lawsuit nightmare.