Omaha trucking firm recovers $146,000 in battle with Pilot

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Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:00 am

A recorded conversation about an Omaha-based trucking company was one piece of evidence that led to a raid this month on the Tennessee headquarters of Pilot Flying J.

The Nov. 28 conversation included Pilot regional sales manager Kevin Clark of Lee’s Summit, Mo., recounting how managers of Omaha’s W.N. Morehouse Truck Line had failed to keep track of how much money was due in rebates.

“The dumb (expletive) never checked, I guess,” Clark was recorded as saying. “I felt like sayin’, ‘Well you’re the moron that didn’t check it!’ ”

Morehouse office manager Curt Morehouse said his company bought fuel from Pilot and received a discount at the pump. When he realized the rate looked off, Morehouse emailed the fuel retailer to double-check his company’s discount.

Morehouse emailed Pilot again to tell them his records indicated the error went back five years and added up to $146,000. Pilot acknowledged the problem but said it was unintended, went back only three years and added up to about $88,000. Morehouse was not satisfied, and Pilot agreed last May to give the company an increased discount at the pump.

Morehouse said he was surprised to hear his issue was related when news broke earlier this month about the FBI raiding Pilot’s headquarters.

Morehouse said Pilot apparently targeted his company, which employs about 125, because it thought the Omaha company was unsophisticated for not checking its fuel optimizer, a tool that allows drivers to check fuel prices and perhaps could have potentially helped the company spot the alleged scam sooner.

Morehouse said his mistake was that he was too trusting. He suspects other local companies were affected but doesn’t know which ones.

“It’s aggravating,” he said. “The trucking industry as a whole has a poor reputation for not being the smartest people, but I think we proved that not to be true because we caught them. ... There’s probably some people (at Pilot) who think they’re sophisticated who don’t have a job today.”

Morehouse said that Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam called him when the news broke and that the two have talked about five times. He said the conversations have given him the impression that Haslam is “trying to do what’s right.”

“I don’t know if that’s because he’s guilty of something or he’s a good guy,” Morehouse said. “I hope it comes out that he had no part in it.”

Between a recent wire transfer of money from Pilot to Morehouse and the increased discount at the pump from a year ago, Morehouse said the company has recovered the $146,000 lost and considers the issue settled.

“We’re settled. We’re good,” he said. “I wish it wouldn’t have happened, but we’re happy going forward.”

Meanwhile, in a sale announced in November 2011, Pilot Flying J acquired seven Bosselman Travel Centers in Nebraska and three other states. The sale included travel centers at Wood River, Big Springs and Elm Creek, Neb.; Des Moines; Salina and Colby, Kan.; and Rapid City, S.D. The transaction did not include the Bosselman Travel Center flagship location on Interstate 80 just south of Grand Island, Neb., or any other of the Bosselman companies’ businesses.

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