Truck drivers are often caught in a predicament: do what their company tells them to and receive work, or comply with the law and risk punishment from their company. They’re caught in an impossible situation. Many choose to keep their heads down and try to fight through the fatigue, but this is easier said than done. As trucking agencies demand their workers to drive past legal regulations, they risk the lives of everyone on the road.
The port trucking companies in Los Angeles put their drivers in dangerous situations and aren’t showing signs of stopping. Some of their truckers’ shifts can run for 20 hours a day in a six-day work week. While some truckers have admitted to breaking fatigue laws in the event of tragic accidents, trucking agencies continue to push their drivers far past their limits.
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Trucking Fatigue and Financial Stress
Federal regulations state that after a 14 hour period, drivers need to take a 10 hour break. But truckers can’t always follow this rule. A worker for Gold Point Transportation showed how the company threatened to take away work as a response for his complaint of having to work multiple double shifts during one week. Humberto Solares’ work schedule started at 5 a.m., and would usually continue to 3 p.m. But on busy days, he’d have to take a second shift that ended at 11 p.m. When Solares went to his superiors about being overworked, they suspended him. Other tactics included giving him low-paying jobs or telling him he’d lose his job.
Solares’ story is one of many that show how trucking companies don’t look out for their employees. But this is only one aspect of the issue. Many truckers lose money to their trucking company because of how the company operates.
It’s now common for companies to require their drivers to purchase trucks. But because this goes through a lease-to-own program, the drivers’ paychecks are next to nothing after expenses. If they want to find a new job, they would also lose their truck that cost them thousands of dollars.
The vicious cycle of needing a normal and fair work schedule vs. making end’s meet forces drivers to make risky decisions, and sometimes they pay for it with their lives.
While there are regulators that check trucks and will know if someone drove past the regulated time, they rarely go further than that step. Less than 2% of these infractions are cited.
USA Today analyzed trucking data from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles between 2013 and 2016. They were able to find more than 580,000 potential time violations.
Between hours violations and labor complaints, one would think that the regulators have plenty of evidence to act against trucking companies. But other issues arise, such as police not being able to find proof of the violations and some cases boil down to the worker’s word vs. the company’s.
A Public Health Threat
It’s strange to think that a trucking company could be a public health threat to their city, but that’s what some have become. In major areas like Los Angeles, the companies considered a threat are under investigation at the request of the mayor’s office.
If it’s proven that companies have forced fatigued drivers to keep working, then there’s evidence that the company regularly committed a federal crime. Their actions are endangering everyone’s lives and companies need to be held accountable for their actions.