Financial Stress Makes Trucking More Dangerous, But Things May Change

In the past, we’ve discussed how low wages lead to unsafe driving in the trucking industry. This post was a direct response to a stretch of U.S. Route 90 just outside of New Orleans receiving a label as the deadliest section of road in Louisiana. The part of Route 90 that runs through the state is used by large commercial trucks each day, and it sees an average of 27 crashes each year.

Why Is Driving a Truck Difficult?

In 2016, large trucks were involved in 4,440 fatal accidents throughout the nation. Here's why: a recent study revealed that truckers work 50 percent more hours than an average American worker. These extended work hours are due in part to how truckers are paid: most drivers earn 35 to 40 cents per mile. When a trucker is not driving, they are not earning money, even if they are waiting for their truck to be loaded or doing other non-driving duties associated with their job.

Pay-by-mile forces drivers to work extended hours, which means they are driving their massive trucks while exhausted. One study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that many truck drivers take no action before an accident, a sign that they were asleep behind the wheel before the collision.

Low pay is enabled (in part) because truck drivers are hired as contracted workers and receive no compensation for their time like a typical employee. So, to make ends meet, more than half of truckers drive outside the regulated hours of service. By looking at crash data, it’s easy to suggest that roads would be safer if truckers weren’t caught up in a system that demands extended work hours to make a living.

California Court Case Could Open Door for Trucking Employment Reform

A court case in California might change the way truckers are paid. Last April, a court determined that a company is required to prove that truckers are running an independent business to classify them as contractors. Now, labor unions are backing efforts to make this ruling California law.

However, the Trucking Association opposed this effort, citing a 1994 federal law which prevents states from making laws “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier…with respect to transportation of property.” This attempt was unsuccessful as the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the new regulations. The court ruled that classifying drivers as employees is not a regulation on prices, routes, or services. The Trucking Association attempted to bring the case for review before the Supreme Court. The court denied this review and did not give a reason for doing so.

As truckers struggle to obtain the rights they deserve as employees, we hope that this new California legislation encourages more states to reform employment laws. The money-fueled rush for miles has changed too many lives for the worse, and it’s time to for a change in the trucking industry’s work culture.

Contact our Louisiana truck accident attorneys today at (225) 209-9943 now for a free consultation. If we take your case, you do not pay any fees unless we win results for you!