Commission approves new moving company in Kalispell
The Montana Public Service Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to permit the sale of a Motor Carrier Certificate from Dunne Moving and Storage to C & N Enterprises, which operates A-Team Moving and Storage.
The action resolves a dispute between Mergenthaler, a multi-state shipping giant, and a former employee, Carroll Demars.
Demars has been trying to leave the corporate umbrella and start his own business in Kalispell in the private moving industry, which in Montana is regulated by the Public Service Commission. The sale of the permit from another shipping company to Carroll’s A-Team Moving and Storage would allow them to operate lawfully in the valley and provide competition for Mergenthaler, Demars’ former employer. The potential sale drew an objection from Mergenthaler earlier this year.
The commission held a hearing at Flathead Valley Community College on the dispute at the end of June. To win approval, A-Team Moving and Storage had to convince the commission that they were fit to compete and that there was space for another proprietor in the local market.
“A-Team has been in business for close to 15 years, they’ve had a business relationship with the other party in this docket for approximately ten years,” said Commission Chairman Brad Johnson, who did not attend the June hearing. “There have been virtually no complaints. There really is limited evidence before us that they are conducting their business in a way that calls into question their fitness.”
Though the vote was unanimous, a prepared statement from the commission said Commissioner Roger Koopman, who was at the hearing, was “a little less confident than the chairman that no problems exist.” He said he believed “there are unanswered questions.”
Mergenthaler also sued A-Team in district court for funds the company says A-Team’s owner, Demars, owes them from overpayments made to him during his time filling contracts under their corporate name.
That litigation is ongoing.
Throughout his testimony at the June hearing, Demars made it clear that he thought there was more than enough demand to fill the schedule of another moving company and that he was uniquely positioned to fill those contracts. He said he had even been coordinating appointments and facilitating services while the permit sale was still pending.
Demars began his career working for Mergenthaler, and the relationship continued until the end of 2017. By that time, he said he was filling contracts for Mergenthaler using a different company he owned.
He said his crew had grown from around five to nearly 20 at a time when the local Mergenthaler crews were suffering from attrition to the point that they were heaping more of their workload on him as a contractor. At one point, nearly 80 percent of the local jobs were being funneled to Demars’ company, according to testimony given at the hearing.
“Our workload was growing because they couldn’t hire and retain guys,” Demars said.
As the workload grew, Demars claims the slice of profits he was getting from Mergenthaler in an average deal was also shrinking. He decided he would be better off on his own, and at the beginning of August last year he let Mergenthaler know he would sever his ties with them at the end of the month.
Mergenthaler maintained that Demars isn’t fit to occupy any niche that may or may not exist in the Flathead Valley moving market, despite the fact that he worked in the industry for them for most of his career.
Attorneys for the company alleged inaccuracies in paperwork Demars turned over to the commission in advance of the hearing. For instance, Demars said he had 1,900 in his account. Demars said the $50,000 figure was a projection based on funds he could tap from family members if the need arose.
The Mergenthaler attorney also showed copies of a Facebook post Demars had previously written to attack Demars’ credibility.
Truck drivers are required by the Department of Transportation to maintain logs of how many hours a driver has been on the road in a given period to avoid over-exhaustion and unsafe driving practices. The regulations also limit the productivity of a given driver and truck on assignment.
In the Facebook post, Demars had allegedly written “F the logbook and the DOT.”
Peregrine Frissell can be reached at 406-758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.