The result of sweatshops on wheels
Truck accidents kill just over 100 people a week in the United States, while hundreds more suffer maiming injuries in truck accidents that will change their lives and their families’ lives forever. There are many causes behind the carnage of every truck accident, and those reasons often include truck defects, truck driver fatigue, speeding, drug and alcohol use, reckless driving, and distraction behind the wheel. But while any number of causes may bring about a single truck accident, there is another, larger cause that is the common denominator of the majority of truck accidents. That cause is known as profit.
In the United States, truck drivers can be classified under one of two categories: union or non-union. Union truck drivers undergo recurrent training and testing, drug screening, are paid hourly rather than by the mile, have regular maintenance performed on their trucks, and answer only to their unions, who in turn negotiate rates of pay, conditions of work, and what is expected of the driver with the companies distributing the freight. With these powerful unions looking out for them, there is far less pressure on truck drivers to skirt the laws of the highway. While meeting their deadlines is still important, no less important to a union truck driver is maintaining truck safety and avoiding truck accidents on the road.
Paid by the mile and not by the load or by the hour, non-union truck drivers (also known as owner-operators) have one objective when driving: getting the freight to its destination as quickly as possible, and by whatever means necessary. Often forced to compete against dozens of other owner-operators for every job, and exempt from the benefits of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, non-union truck drivers are often hurtling down the highway at less than the minimum wage. An article in the Seattle Press, though published in 1998, provides a first-person account of the many financial obstacles thousands of non-union truck drivers still face today. It goes a long way in explaining why most truck accidents involve non-union truck drivers, and not union truck drivers.
Quote from a Seattle independent truck owner-operator:
The last time I figured it out, I was grossing $2,000 a month, but actually earning $2.73 an hour in take home pay," [the truck driver] said. "I had to drive 80 to 100 hours a month, pay insurance, maintenance, taxes, fuel and buy the truck, too. Usually, there's no pay for waiting time, and there can be a lot of that. It used to be the driver would get 80 percent of the fees the freight company charged the shipper. But many companies have gone to a flat rate, and we don't even know what percentage we're getting or how much they're actually charging the shippers."
So why don’t all truck drivers enjoy the security of unions? With the de-regulation of trucking in the early 1990s, companies seeking to reduce their shipping costs quickly moved away from the high fixed rates of the unions, and instead hired independent owner-operators to deliver their freight. The advantage in this relationship, of course, went almost entirely to the employer, removing the delicate balance that the unions once ensured. In these arrangements, the hiring companies always call the shots, and the last thing they are worried about is the competence of the driver, the condition of the truck, or the safety of those in its path. All these companies care about is the money they are saving by pushing the truck driver to the brink of exhaustion and delirium.
It is when truck drivers pass over that brink that innocent people in passenger vehicles are killed or hurt in truck accidents. The truck accident attorneys of MichieHamlett represent victims in the complex litigation that follows most truck accidents. We’ve done it successfully since 1946, bringing justice and financial security to lives that have been physically, emotionally, and irrevocably shattered. If you or a loved one has been through the trauma of a truck accident, contact us today for powerful, winning legal advice that will help you obtain justice for your truck accident injury.