Though there are legal limits to the number of hours truck drivers can work in a week, those limits are routinely exceeded. The reasons for this dangerous game include driver shortages, pressure by employers to satisfy increased shipping demands, poor working conditions, low pay and the related financial pressure for truckers to boost their earnings.
The results of these inexcusable conditions are an increase in truck accidents. Truck crash fatalities jumped 13% between 2020 and 2021. To be clear, though truck drivers are frequently killed, the majority of fatalities are regular drivers hit by larger, heavier trucks. Why is this happening and how can we turn these numbers around?
Gaming their hours
Truck drivers are not paid for time spent waiting during loading and unloading. Cargo companies have no motivation to make loading and unloading as fast as possible, so there’s often a lot of wasted time.
To reclaim that time so it can be applied to paid driving hours, drivers will record loading and unloading as “off duty.” While waiting around isn’t as mentally taxing as navigating traffic, it most certainly isn’t relaxing and recharging.
Why aren’t drivers paid for this time that is clearly work?
More hours, unhealthy working conditions
A 2017 survey of 573 long-haul truck drivers showed that more than half regularly exceed the maximum legally allowed 60 hours of driving per week and one in five exceeded 75 hours per week. These extra hours not only create dangerous fatigued driving conditions, but it increases driver washout numbers.
Driver burnout and health problems associated with sitting for long periods while subsisting on roadside-quality food are causing this turnover. Inexperienced, unvetted drivers are taking their place.
Fewer drivers, greater demands
The trucking industry has been struggling with a driver shortage since 2005. In addition to fatigued drivers working unsafe hours, this has also resulted in a large number of inexperienced drivers on the road.
With stagnant pay and increased demand for shipping, drivers are becoming more aggressive, boosting accident rates even more.
Pay increases reduce accidents
Numerous studies have shown a direct cause and effect between increased truck driver pay and reduced accidents. Shipping companies would naturally like to save money by paying lower salaries, but would pay increases (thus fewer hours behind the wheel) be cancelled out by the reduction in insurance claims and losses due to delayed/destroyed cargo?
If you’re truck driver that’s been involved in an accident that you feel was caused by your employer’s negligence, consult an attorney.