October 12, 2023

Truckers: Shuttered Sunset Logistics still owes final paychecks, escrow


Owner-operators say Titan Transportation Services Inc., doing business as Sunset Logistics, still hasn’t refunded their $1,000 in escrow or maintenance account funds that were withheld from their paychecks after the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company abruptly ceased operations on Sept. 29.

Company drivers say they haven’t been paid for two weeks’ work for Sunset Logistics, while motor carriers that hauled freight through the company’s brokerage claim they are owed thousands of dollars — and no one is picking up the phone.

One truck driver told FreightWaves he was stranded in North Dakota without a working fuel card when he found out that Sunset Logistics was shuttering operations. The driver, who lives in Texas, said it took him nearly two weeks to find another trucking company that would hire him.

“I’m two paychecks in the hole and behind on bills,” the truck driver, who worked for Sunset Logistics, told FreightWaves. 

In an email sent to drivers on Friday and obtained by FreightWaves, Sunset Logistics said it was waiting on an upcoming meeting with its lender “to determine if we can pay a final paycheck and pay escrow” to the company’s drivers and owner-operators.

“It is in their hands but please understand that we are doing everything we can to make sure [you are] paid what you are owed,” Mason Gainey, customer services and sales agent for Sunset Logistics, said in the email.

While Mason Gainey was listed as the contact for drivers to call, the email was signed by his father, Harvey N. “Buddy” Gainey III. According to the Michigan secretary of state incorporation documents, Buddy Gainey is listed as the owner, treasurer, secretary and director of Sunset Logistics.

As of publication Wednesday, Buddy Gainey had not responded to FreightWaves’ requests seeking comment about when he plans to meet with his lenders.

However, online records show that Gainey’s home is listed for sale for nearly $2 million in Kent County, Michigan.

The Gainey family is well known in the transportation industry. Buddy’s father, Harvey N. Gainey II, who died in November 2021, owned Michigan-based Gainey Corp., which filed for bankruptcy in 2008 after the senior Gainey failed to repay more than $238 million of a $260 million loan to lender Wachovia Corp.

In an email to nearly 90 truck drivers and employees, Buddy Gainey blamed the economy and freight rates for Sunset Logistics’ ceasing operations.

“The economy has been horrid, freight has been slow and rates have been in the toilet,” Gainey said in the email, obtained by FreightWaves. “Combine that with the fact that all of our costs have continued to rise — from fuel to driver wages to truck prices, tires, and on and on.”

One driver who received the email said that Buddy claims he paid $850,000 out of pocket to keep the company afloat.

“My question is, why can’t the same be done to pay the drivers out of pocket? It seems like the people that matter really didn’t matter,” the truck driver told FreightWaves.

Another driver, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said he was about two hours from home on Sept. 29 when he was notified of the company’s closure. The driver said he was told that Sunset Logistics had been going through financial struggles since March and that the owner had used hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to keep the business afloat.

The driver said others working for Sunset Logistics weren’t so lucky and were scattered across the country without working fuel cards when they received word the company was ceasing operations.

Those drivers were instructed to return their trucks to the nearest Ryder dealership.

Another driver, who lives in Tennessee, stated that she was notified that Sunset Logistics was ceasing operations after delivering to one of the carrier’s customers in Minnesota. 

The driver, who has worked in the trucking industry for more than 20 years, claims she was “ghosted” by Sunset Logistics executives, who wouldn’t answer the phone or respond to emails about what to do with her truck after receiving the news the carrier was shuttering operations.

About 90 truck drivers and office personnel who worked at Sunset Logistics say they are owed their final paychecks and escrow after receiving a string of emails from company executives notifying them that the trucking company was closing its doors.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website, Sunset Logistics had 90 power units and the same number of drivers.

FMCSA data states its trucks had been inspected 89 times and 23 had been placed out of service in a 24-month period, resulting in a nearly 26% rate, which is higher than the industry’s national average of about 22.3%. Drivers for Sunset Logistics were inspected 184 times and six were placed out of service, resulting in a 3.3% out-of-service rate. The national average is nearly 7%. Over the past 24 months, its trucks have been involved in three injury crashes and 15 towaways.

The company’s insurance is slated to be canceled Nov. 4, according to FMCSA. 

One former driver said Sunset Logistics had hired four new drivers the week company executives announced it was shutting down. 

“I feel bad for those drivers,” the source told FreightWaves. “The company wasted their time because the drivers were never able to earn any money and were likely stranded.”

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FreightWaves’ Justin Martin contributed to this report.

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