Moving aggressively to head off a mounting tide of civil lawsuits, Pilot Flying J has reached a settlement with several trucking companies that have sued over allegations of fuel-rebate fraud.

U.S. District Judge James M. Moody on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to the proposed agreement, which the lead attorney for the plaintiffs described as "the best settlement I've ever seen for a class."

The attorney for the nation's largest truck stop chain said the settlement could lead to paying up to $35 million if all the Pilot customers that were shorted accept the deal. For now, other lawsuits filed across the United States against the Knoxville-based firm remain active.

Tuesday's move comes only three months after a federal investigation of Pilot burst into public view, when FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents raided facilities including the company's West Knoxville headquarters.

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