A recent investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies, which transport goods into and out of California ports, use unscrupulous practices to force drivers to exceed federal limits on working hours.
According to the investigation, several trucking companies force drivers to work longer hours against their will by threatening to fire them, take their trucks and keep the money they have paid toward owning them.
By forcing drivers into a lease-to-own contract with the trucking company, it can govern every aspect of the workers’ lives.
These practices have led to a dangerous work environment that pushes workers to the extreme and significantly increases the risk for a collision. Contact our Connecticut truck crash attorneys if you have been injured or lost a loved one in a truck collision.
Forced to Work
Each paycheck, workers pay a set amount toward owning the truck they drive every day. However, despite working excessive hours a week, workers often bring home paychecks as small as $0.67 after payment toward the lease, gas, insurance and other fees.
Workers who are simply trying to support their families often have no option but to break federal laws just to keep their jobs and the tens of thousands of dollars they have paid toward their truck’s lease.
Drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation testified that their managers scheduled drivers up to 20 hours a day and refused to pay them until they had falsified inspection reports that track drivers’ hours on the road.
Some companies prevented workers from going home by physically barring entrances to the company parking lot where drivers are required to park their trucks every night, according to sworn testimony from several drivers.
Through its investigation, the USA TODAY Network found that at least 140 trucking companies have been accused by at least one driver of being cheated out of fair pay or using threats to force drivers to work longer hours. Since 2010, at least 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims in civil court or with the California Department of Industrial Relations’ labor commission.
Increased Crash Risk
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, prohibits truckers from driving more than 11 hours at a time. These hours of service regulations also prohibit truckers from driving at all after 14 hours until they have 10 hours of rest.
This important rule is in place because government studies have shown that for every hour past 11 hours of driving, the chances of being involved in a crash increase exponentially.
However, despite these laws and strict requirements that drivers keep detailed records of their hours worked, many drivers feel they have no choice but to break the law to keep their jobs and the money they have paid toward owning their trucks.
Through interviews and court records, USA TODAY reporters identified more than 120 drivers who said they regularly worked past exhaustion by driving 12 to 20 hours at a time without a break.
By analyzing port authority records, reporters were able to identify the number of times the same trucks entered and exited the gates of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Reporters found hundreds of thousands of instances where the same truck was operating in and out of the port for at least 14 hours without the required 10-hour break.
However, the investigation notes that while it is possible that more than one driver used the same truck, most companies prohibit that practice.
Pacific 9 is one that prohibits such practice, and port reports indicate that almost all of the company’s 160 trucks exceeded the 14-hour maximum time limit at least once from 2013 to 2016. The company’s trucks were on the clock for more than 14 hours at least 7,500 times throughout that period.
Because of these dangerous practices, hundreds of California port truckers have been involved in crashes that led to more than 20 deaths between 2013 and 2015, according to the USA TODAY Networks’ analysis of federal crash and port trade data.
Injured in a Truck Crash? Contact Our Truck Crash Lawyers
Drivers who are pushed to exhaustion and forced to work past the regulatory maximum number of hours behind the wheel place others on the road at extreme risk of being involved in a collision. This is because fatigued drivers have:
- Delayed reaction times
- Impaired judgement
- Weakened vision
- Inability to pay attention to the road
- Inability to make good decisions
- Problems processing information
- Increased aggressive behaviors
Impairment from drowsy driving is equivalent to the dangers posed by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a crash involving a commercial truck, do not hesitate to contact our Connecticut personal injury attorneys. We offer a free, no obligation consultation to review the details of your crash and do not charge any fees unless we recover compensation for you.