S.A. trucker drops big rig off for service, then it disappeared – San Antonio Express-News

Little did San Antonio truck driver Rolando Denova Jr. know when he took his big rig into a service facility for maintenance that it would be the last time he’d see it.

Denova, 31, alleges a “defect” in security at the Doggett Freightliner South Texas dealership in Converse allowed the truck to “be removed from their lot without being noticed.”

Fourteen months after dropping his vehicle off at Doggett Freightliner, Denova says the whereabouts of his white 2017 Freightliner Cascadia remain a mystery.

He reported the vehicle stolen to the San Antonio Police Department on Dec. 8, 2021, about two weeks after he said he said he dropped it off at Doggett.

An SAPD spokesman told the Express-News last week the truck was recovered July 6 in Arkansas and “the owner now has possession of the truck.” But Denova says he doesn’t have it. And he’s now seeking up to $2 million in damages in a lawsuit against Doggett Freightliner South Texas LLC and a related business.

Denova, an independent owner-operator who drove all lower 48 states and lived in his truck while on the road, said the loss has cost him $5,500 in weekly income and “crushed” his dreams.

“I was planning on starting a trucking company and all that went to nothing, right?” he said in an interview. “I feel kind of lost right now. I don’t know what to do. But I’m going to start from zero and do it all over again.”

Doggett Freightliner has 13 dealerships in South and Central Texas and Arkansas and is part of Leslie Doggett Industries, the ninth-largest privately held business in Houston with almost $1.9 billion in 2021 revenue, according to a Houston Chronicle ranking. A representative with the parent company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

No apology

Denova acquired his used Freightliner Cascadia in 2019 and drove to Kentucky to pick it up. He paid $31,000, financing $20,000 of the purchase price. He said he’s still paying on the note even though he no longer has the truck.

Though Denova is an independent owner-operator, he said he was exclusively driving for freight and logistics company Forward Air until his truck disappeared.

He had taken the semi into Doggett Freightliner’s Converse facility two days before Thanksgiving in 2021 for a transmission oil change and to have three fuel injector lines fixed. Doggett was spending time with his wife and daughter during the holiday, so it was an ideal time to have the vehicle serviced.

A Doggett Freightliner representative gave Denova a “tracking number” for his rig.

About a week later, a Doggett Freightliner employee called Denova to ask if he had picked up his truck because “they could not find it,” his lawsuit alleges. He told them he had not retrieved the rig.

Two days later, a Doggett Freightliner employee told him they had not located the truck. He asked that they check video from security cameras. The facility allegedly reviewed footage but didn’t see anything showing the vehicle had been removed. But recordings confirmed that the truck had been “safely pulled into the back their lot by their own agents” on Nov. 23, 2021, Denova’s suit says.

Doggett Freightliner told him he could not personally review the footage, his suit adds.

“They didn’t even apologize. They just said, you better call the police,” said Rudolph Jass Jr., Denova’s San Antonio attorney.

Denova reported his truck stolen to San Antonio police on Dec. 8, 2021. The FBI’s National Crime Information Center and the Texas Crime Information Center were notified, according to the police report.

The SAPD spokesman said it had no information about any arrests made in connection with the theft. On Monday, he said he was checking with investigators on the status of the truck.

Jass said he sent demand letters to “everyone I could find, including Leslie Doggett,” the parent company’s CEO, but didn’t receive any answer.

‘Worst time’

Denova also lost about $17,000 worth of personal property he kept in his truck, including two Purple mattresses, a Qualcomm radio and a GPS system, which he suspects was disabled prior to the theft of the truck, he says in his suit.

“The loss of the vehicle also meant the loss of his business insofar that he was a long-distance truck driver and, without a vehicle, he was unable to continue with his employment,” the lawsuit says.

San Antonio truck driver Rolando Denova Jr. walks past the entrance to Doggett Freightliner South Texas in Converse.

San Antonio truck driver Rolando Denova Jr. walks past the entrance to Doggett Freightliner South Texas in Converse.

Josie Norris, San Antonio Express-News / Staff photographer

Denova has applied for jobs at various trucking companies but has so far not heard back, he said. The rise in truck prices during the pandemic has made it prohibitively expensive for Denova to buy another used rig, Jass said.

“This happened at the worst possible time,” the lawyer said.

Denova is supporting his family, which now includes another two daughters — 4 and 9 months, with savings and support from his family.

In the complaint filed Jan. 5 in state District Court in San Antonio, Denova has sued for breach of contract, deceptive trade practices and negligence.

The Doggett Freightliner businesses have yet to respond to to the complaint.


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