Trucking accidents are not always the fault of truck drivers. Nor are they caused by mechanical failures within the trucks themselves. Rather, as detailed in a series of recent investigative articles published in USA Today, many tractor-trailer collisions can be traced back to the trucking companies that hire drivers, as well as the retail outlets that they service.
Specifically, owing to demands that stem from the retail industry, many truck drivers are forced to work shifts as long as 20 hours, are disallowed from going home, and even, in some cases, work off-the-clock – that is, for free. Failing to go along will result in being laid off. Such practices (which clearly violate federal labor laws) are a primary contributor to driver fatigue, which in turn is a primary factor of trucking accidents.
What did USA Today learn?
Some key takeaways from the USA Today report, which reveal how systemic pressures make trucking needlessly dangerous, include:
- Dozens of Fortune 500 companies, such as Target and other major retailers, have paid lobbyists more than $12 million to fight bills that would ensure truckers receive a minimum wage and other basic protections.
- Dispatchers would schedule truckers for shifts of up to 20 hours, despite a federally mandated 11-hour limit. In many cases, truckers were forced to claim 11 hours on their timesheets, and were not compensated for the additional hours. This is so that the trucking companies can keep their costs down, and offer the lowest bid for trucking contracts.
- Trucking company managers physically bar truckers from going home after a shift, keeping lot gates locked and then sending drivers back to work with minimal rest.
- Managers and supervisors create a “culture of fear,” by threatening to fire drivers if they don’t comply.
- Some trucking companies charge their drivers a weekly fee for company toilet paper and other necessary supplies.
These are just a few of the means by which truckers are mistreated. Of course, the abuse they endure gets passed on, all too often, to other drivers on the road.