According to an investigative report by USA Today, port trucking companies around Los Angeles may be putting hundreds of sleep-deprived truckers to work daily. Numerous truck accidents in recent years prompted the investigation which took into account data over four years using time stamps that were generated every time a driver passed through a port gate. Analysts calculated how long each truck was in operation and compared those results to federal data from 2013-2016.
The reporters found that trucks serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach often operated without their drivers taking the federally-required 10-hour break every 14 hours. On average, the data showed that trucks were in operation without that break 470 times a day. When trucking companies were asked about this information, executives denied violating the regulation and stated that more than one driver often shared a truck.
When the investigators asked the drivers themselves how often they shared trucks, however, they were told a much different story. Drivers stated that sharing trucks is rare and that many companies prohibit it. They also stated that it’s far more common for trucking agencies to push their employees to work more hours and even threaten to fire them if they can’t complete extra shifts.
Additionally, drivers for L.A. trucking agencies are often forced to “pay to own” the trucks they’re driving and take lower wages until they own their vehicles. It’s easy to see why this practice alone would tempt a driver to stay behind the wheel for longer hours. Multiple drivers interviewed claimed they worked more than 14 hours a day for periods of 5 days a week. When traveling on the road for long hours, truckers are often forced to sleep in their vehicles for 4-5 hours before they must hit the road again.
Weak Regulation Enforcement Encourages Violations
We all know how dangerous it is to drive while drowsy. Statistics prove that driving when overtired is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated—even more so for truckers who are responsible for such large, potentially-destructive vehicles. How are trucking agencies able to get away with breaking violation after violation when it’s so risky to push their drivers to drive longer hours?
USA Today’s analysts found that state and federal regulators have done little to enforce the broken violations or even hand violations out. The investigation’s data showed that even when regulators checked trucks that were operating for more than 14 hours at a time, agencies were only cited for breaking regulations less than 2% of the time.
The other issue is that police and Department of Transportation inspectors still heavily rely on paper driving logs that are maintained by the drivers themselves. This makes them easy to edit. Numerous interviewed truckers claimed that after driving for more than the legal amount or causing an accident, they were pressured by their executives to change the data on their logs.
In December 2017, a mandate forcing agencies to install electronic log machines in commercial trucks took effect. It remains to be seen how quickly companies will comply with this mandate. This is something that should have been put into place much earlier than now, but electronic logs should make it easier to hold agencies accountable for correctly enforcing driver regulations.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a commercial truck accident in Nebraska and you feel a trucker may have caused the crash due to driving too many hours, filing a lawsuit may force trucking companies to follow regulations and prioritize the health and safety of their employees and everyone who shares a road with them. For more information or to find out if you have a potential claim, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Welsh & Welsh today.