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A trucker’s feedback on the dangers of overloaded trucks in Michigan

July 12, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

“Truck drivers absolutely hate driving over weight, over hours or with unmaintained equipment. Many times we are forced to do so by the trucking companies …”

truck driver

I recently wrote about a proposed House Bill that would double fines for overweight trucks. My criticism is based on the physics: Heavier trucks have greater size, weight, and mass – and cause more serious injury and are more likely to cause death when they’re involved in a wreck.  Some of the most horrific cases in my legal career as a lawyer litigating these truck wreck cases involve overloaded trucks.

So of course, I backed this bill because it would save lives.

I also received a thoughtful comment from a trucker named Dan Kemp on Facebook, in response to my blog post on overweight trucks. Dan had some great suggestions on how to hold truck companies accountable when they force truckers to break the law and overload their trucks. He also gave incredibly valuable insight on how truck company management often strong arms truckers into breaking Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules, and the extreme problems truckers face when they want to do the right thing and drive safely.

Here’s what Dan had to say:

“As a semi truck driver for more than 30 years, I would like to make a couple comments on this. Truck drivers absolutely hate driving over weight, over hours or with unmaintained equipment. Many times we are forced to do so by the trucking companies, shippers and receivers.

Almost every state has closed weigh stations and OSHA, D.O.T., FMCSA whistle blowers hotlines are a joke when drivers complain to these people. The court systems that once upheld the STAA now side with big business and the drivers have no place to turn anymore for companies who threaten their drivers with termination if they don’t do what the company tells them to do. It’s called “voluntary quit” when a driver refuses to haul a load, safe or not and “IF” the driver takes legal action, the company can have him blackballed from driving all together and they lose their careers and it can take many years and court procedures before any retribution is given, IF at all.

This law will NOT deter companies, shippers and receivers from these violations. It will only cost numerous drivers employment and put many owner operators outta business. There is a real easy fix to this problem and drivers have screamed for years on how to fix it:

1st) We need some place for drivers to turn and an organization who will “listen” to the drivers and do more than just report him back to his company and have the driver terminated.

2nd) Make it mandatory any load over 35,000 pounds be weighed at shipper expense “NOT THE DRIVERS.” If the shipper wants to ship heavy loads, they should pay to make sure its legal and the driver should have a scale ticket in their possession while the load is being transported.

3rd) STOP the lip service of fining a billion dollar company a couple hundred dollars for knowingly loading and forcing drivers to drive illegal equipment. “JAIL TIME” to ANY person who knowingly forces a driver to break the law & the court system shouldn’t take years to handout this punishment.
4th) STOP “bribing” drivers to go around weigh stations and pull illegal loads. This law of double fining is a great incentive to companies to have their drivers travel back roads and stay away from main highways where police travel.

These are just a couple of suggestions, but the biggest problem today in the trucking industry is “INEXPERIENCE”. It used to be mandatory for trucking companies to not allow inexperienced drivers to drive alone UNTIL they had 1 year of all season/all terrain driving &/Or 100,000 miles. Too often, 6 week driving courses are allowing inexperienced drivers to travel our highways and if you take this class in Florida in June and end up in Michigan in January, they don’t know what to do.”

Dan, I want you to know I appreciate your fantastic comment, and I commend you for the good work  you do. You are an example of the  many good professional truck drivers out there – the majority of truck drivers that I meet are like you. They care about their job and they care about protecting the public.

It’s truly a shame that people like you sometimes are tarred by the same brush when a small minority of truck drivers give the good ones a bad name. It is a shame that such a small group of truckers and companies that break the rules and don’t care hurt the image of people like yourself.

Thanks again for your comment and taking the time to speak out.

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