Are Truckers Coerced into Driving Carelessly?

fatal commercial truck crashes

Truck driver negligence – such as speeding or driving distracted – is a leading cause of fatal truck accidents.  But there’s another side to the story.

What happens when “good” truck drivers are forced to do bad things by their employers?

The federal government’s “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” is an exhaustive examination of the causes of catastrophic accidents involving tractor-trailers.  The research found driver error to be the leading cause for deadly truck crashes.

Trucker Errors that Cause Crashes

Careless actions by commercial truck drivers were broken down into several different categories, including physical factors, recognition factors, and decision factors.

Some of the examples of the truck driver physical factors leading to crashes were:

·         Driving drunk

·         Driving while dangerously fatigued

·         Driving under the influence of illegal drugs

The trucker recognition mistakes included inattentive driving.

Examples of poor truck driver decision making were:

·         Following too closely

·         Aggressive driving

·         An illegal maneuver while driving

All of these negligent actions are the responsibility of the truck driver.  He or she decided on their own to be careless.  Unfortunately, all too often many innocent victims pay the price for such recklessness.

Companies that Force Truckers to Ignore Safety Regulations

But in many instances truck drivers are coerced into taking dangerous actions by their employers.  These are not isolated incidences.  So much so that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adopted a rule that forbids motor carriers, shippers and other transportation interests from forcing commercial truckers to violate other federal trucking rules.

Called “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers,” the rule was enacted in January 2016.  Among other dangerous driving actions, the rule bans trucking companies from forcing truckers to:

·         Exceed existing hours of service rules, which dictate how long a trucker can be on the road

·         Drive in violation of drug and alcohol testing requirements

·         Ignore federal commercial driver’s license regulations

·         Ignore truck inspection and maintenance inspection regulations

If truck drivers believe employers are breaking this rule, they have legal remedies to protect themselves and their jobs.  But they must file a complaint with federal officials within 90 days of the perceived violation.

To be in violation, the employer must threaten big-rig drivers with financial and job repercussions if they fail to carry out the employer’s demands to ignore public safety concerns.

The rule, however, does not seem to be working well.

“Overdrive,” a trucking industry trade magazine, recently published a series of articles on truck driving company coercion. It found that, since the rule was enacted, there have been more than 2,300 truck driver employer complaints forwarded to the federal government.  Of those complaints, only four so far have been deemed violations of the rule that prohibits truck company coercion.

Fines were given in those four cases, ranging from $6,000 for a small company to $80,000 for a much larger fleet.

The “Overdrive” series included complaints that these financial penalties are not significant enough to stop the truck companies’ negligent behavior. Another concern is that the rule truly doesn’t protect truck driver whistleblowers.  Without valid protections, many truck drivers experiencing coercion to drive unsafely don’t come forward with their complaints.

That the federal government felt the need to enact a rule forbidding trucking companies from forcing their drivers to behave dangerously points to the scope of the problem.  While tired truckers and those driving rigs with bad brakes can cause deadly accidents, they may be on the road only because of their employers’ irresponsible threats.

If you had a family member killed or you were seriously injured in a crash caused by a commercial truck, speak with an attorney experienced in holding trucking companies responsible for their negligence.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles December 23, 2019