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Trucker: Trucking industry breaking laws and putting drivers in danger

March 9, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Truck companies pushing truckers to break safety regulations, lie on logs books and speed

I received the following comment from Ron, a professional commercial truck driver. He makes a number of personal observations about how the trucking industry puts truck drivers in jeopardy and in no-win positions. It is the same thing I’ve seen as a truck accident lawyer helping both injury victims who’ve been seriously hurt from truck accidents, and from many truck drivers who were injured while on the job.The public safety issue involving large commercial motor vehicles is one I’ve written about often in this space.

Ron and I may not agree on everything, but I think we both agree that the trucking industry today is one where trucking companies only care about profits, and not the safety or health of the drivers, or our families.

Disclosure: I’ve edited Ron’s comment a bit – both for length, and to be honest, in a couple places for language (this is, after all, a family blog). Let’s just say Ron probably dislikes truck accident lawyers like myself as much as he dislikes the trucking industry. As a personal note, Ron and I e-mailed each other several times after this, and he was a really nice guy.

Ron writes:

” … the trucking company will come out smelling like roses and they are the ones who need the kick in the pants more than the poor trucker. They are the ones pushing things and they are the ones the truckers are afraid to stand up to. Because after all it’s the trucker who is ultimately responsible for everything, just like being PIC on an aircraft, everything comes back to the driver.

I remember at the trucking driving school I went to the head instructor telling an auditorium of students that you have to do whatever it takes to get the load there and then regaling them with the story of how the winds were so bad on I-10 in AZ that his trailer was being blown against the guardrail leaving a trail of sparks as he went down the road but he didn’t stop because that load had to get to where it was going. I stood up and asked if he was crazy telling all these kids crap like that. Then I said quite loudly to not listen to that crap and pull off and park in severe weather conditions. The instructors response was to tell me I wasn’t going to be successful in this business. And you know what I found out his attitude prevailed. I can’t tell you the number of times I shut down in bad weather including ice for instance and was yelled out for doing so. Even got threatened to be fired a couple of times for doing that….

I spent about 11 years driving and you know what? It wasn’t I who had the problem stopping whenever I got tired or in bad weather it was the company. One even went so far as to tell me a load was delayed and it was my fault because if I had only went through there earlier there wouldn’t have been snow and ice. You can’t believe all the times I’ve been told “None of the other trucks had any problem with it, so why do you?” And this is stuff in a lot of cases that was making the news. One was a blizzard from Cincinnati south on 75, lead story on CNN, yet I got told everyone else was getting through fine. According to CNN the only thing getting through fine was the national guard choppers sent to evacuate stranded motorists.

So yeah go ahead and go after a driver. With the current (hours of service) it’s not that hard to do. Under the new rules if we follow them, it would mean that we would be too fatigued to be out there a lot of times. I used to get tired and stop for several hours to take a nap then get up and keep driving. Yet I didn’t show that in my log book because if I did I would lose 3 or 4 hours of driving time that I couldn’t afford to lose. So I showed what I drove but didn’t show times I stopped for naps so therefore I would be in violation of their 14 hour rule. Would you rather I kept driving when I was too tired to safely do so or stop and get some sleep and fudge my log books to make (Department of Transportation) happy. (You can’t do both and have it work). There is always something you can get them on. But just for the record a PTI according to regs must be a minimum of 15 minutes and that is what it gets. Most don’t know whether it means Pre-trip or post-trip. I was always taught and did Pre-trip inspections but eventually ran into a couple of companies who said it meant Post trip inspections. So that’s an easy “Get” for you right there. Most everyone does Pre-trip ones.

Oh and the companies well insulate themselves from any liability going back to the PIC concept. They tell you straight to your face “We want you to run nothing but legal. Don’t every run illegally” and “Shut down if you’re tired or the weather is bad, we don’t want you to risk your safety or anyone’s else’s” but then you get a different story “Off the books” as it were. Phone calls mostly but even occasionally on the QC where its a whole different story. “We need you to get moving this load HAS to be there” and when I say I don’t have the hours I get “Oh well of course we don’t want you to violate (hours of service) BUT this load REALLY needs to be there if there is anyway you can do it” But you know of course what happens if that load isn’t there. Last company I worked for had a lovely policy. They would call your cell constantly with things but if something happens and you bring up said phone calls you get told that if it’s not on the QC it didn’t happen.

Oh and if you’re interested in trucking safety then you might want to do something about all these states who had decided to ban trucks parking on onramps or off ramps. That includes your state btw. Trucks do it all the time but as more states are looking for money they are hitting us with their needs in order to make a buck and the funny thing is it is discriminatory in that they write you a ticket for illegal parking yet its set at a special “Commercial Motor Vehicle” rate so what would cost you in your car 25 bucks costs us a hundred or two. Michigan has it as well. I pull over at the first safe place to do so if I’m getting too tired to drive safely yet the State Police don’t care. In one incident I was in Michigan when I got really sleepy and pulled off onto an onramp. A couple of hours later a Michigan Patrol officer pounded on the side of my truck and when I came up front gave me a lecture about parking on his off ramps and onramps then asked for my logbook. Of course I was so tired all I did was pull off and crawl into the back to sleep so didn’t bring it up to date as to that time and he wrote me a ticket but you get the idea. In Virginia, Illinois, Ohio and numerous other states they have parties where a bunch of SP units converge on the onramps and even rest areas for trucks on the ramps in and out all to harass the driver.

The bottom line is does anyone care about there so called concern for tired truckers being on the road or not? Because it sure seems in recent years the or not part is more applicable.

Oh one last thing, I’ve never heard log books referred to as “Lie Books” Try “Joke Books” since they’re a joke or “The Funny Papers” again since they are a joke and finally “Creative Writing Class” since that is what they are as well.

There is just no way we’re going to log an hour and a half to get through Chicago when we can log 15 or 30 minutes which is the driving time it should take.” – Ron

Ron commented on Preventable truck crashes: That truck driver should have never been on the road in the first place

Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the most renowned truck accident lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported trial verdict in Michigan for truck accidents. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his efforts in promoting national truck safety.

Related information:

Bad trucking companies in Michigan

Truck driver fatigue

Top Michigan truck accident verdict

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation from one of our truck accident lawyers.

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