Far too many truck accidents are caused by drivers forced to break the law, but the Surface Transportation Act provides a framework for legal recourse
Today I wanted to share this e-mail I received from a truck driver in West Michigan. I will keep his name out of it, but the issue he brings up is alarming and it’s one that many truck drivers who are trying to do the right thing face.
This truck driver’s employer is pressuring him to do illegal runs. This usually means driving past his hours of service and lying on his log books. It can mean adding illegal shifts and skipping pre-trip inspections. All of this is done to turn the truck faster so his employer can turn over a larger profit – at the expense of the safety of the public.
Here’s what the trucker had to say when he reached out me and Michigan Auto Law:
“The company that I drive for has me doing illegal runs. I feel if I don’t do them, my miles will be cut or they will find a way to get rid of me. I need to care for my family. I have been to many companies and they are all the same. The one I’m with now is the worst. I’m looking for other employment and coping the best I can. Is there anyone I can talk to like a whistle blower organization? Or maybe a letter too the secretary of transportation? Companies, dispatchers, shippers and receivers need to be held accountable until we have better legislation in place to address this. Us truckers will always be at the bottom of the hill. And of course we know which direction s##t rolls.”
Unfortunately, he is right.
I’ve litigated several hundred trucking accidents , and many truckers who otherwise would want to do the right thing are often forced by their employers – ironically, often the company safety director – to break the law or lose his job. Many truck drivers feel, as this one does, that “truckers will always be at the bottom of the hill.”
And it sadly is not uncommon to have truck drivers being pushed by their employers to drive past their Hours of Service, skip a pre-trip inspection, and speed. These truck companies don’t care about the safety of their truck drivers or innocent people on the roads. All they care about is profits. And it’s often truck drivers who pay the price.
I always say from my own experience that the majority of truck drivers I’ve encountered are good people. They want to drive safely and follow the rules.
But the bad ones are really bad. And sometimes a good truck driver gets threatened.
I advised this trucker to look to the Surface Transportation Act, which expressly prohibits the “discharge an employee, or discipline or discriminate against an employee regarding pay, terms, or privileges of employment,” where the employee reports, or assists in an investigation of violations of commercial motor vehicle safety or security regulations or standards (49 U.S.C. § 31105).
At its most basic level, the statute provides whistle blower protection truck drivers and trucking company employees who want to report violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
Click here to read the full Surface Transportation Act.
I thank this truck driver for speaking up and having the courage to do something about the abuse he’s been enduring at the hands of his employer — abuse that’s putting peoples’ lives in jeopardy every time he gets behind the wheel.