Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Battling Driver Fatigue

One of the things about the trucking industry that makes no sense to me is the way many commercial truck drivers are paid. They get paid by the mile. The more miles they can fit into a work day the more they are paid. It’s on the drivers (and sometimes dispatchers) to figure out how to get the most miles into their day.

It’s a fundamental problem underlying many of our safety concerns surrounding fatigued driving.

For years those of us in the truck safety family have known this, but the pay structure for drivers is so entrenched in the industry’s business model it wasn’t even open for discussion. Lately there’s been some discussion about the unpaid waiting times drivers have to tolerate at many shipper’s and receiver’s loading docks.

In fact, there’s starting to be a swell of voices, some from within the industry, some from safety advocates, about the responsibility sections of the supply chain have been avoiding for years. There’s no cost to a company shipping product if the driver of the truck hauling that product is held up waiting to be loaded. There’s no cost to the retailer if the driver has to wait hours to unload.

The cost rest squarely on the truck driver’s shoulders, because they are not paid for those hours. They’re only paid if their wheels are rolling. And if they spend hours waiting while watching their income be frittered away, they will generally driver longer and faster to make that income up.

And that’s the risk to all of us.

My dad, sitting in traffic, was a victim of a truck driver driving all night to try to earn a living. Dad isn’t the only one to die because of the way drivers are paid. There are thousands of families just like mine.

Approximately 5,000 people die annually in crashes with commercial trucks. Eight hundred truck drivers die every year. Not all of these crashes are fatigue related. But a lot are. There’s no box on the police accident report to indicate fatigue was a factor in a crash, and we know that fatigue is grossly underreported.

We can add all the safety features invented to a commercial truck, but if we don’t fix the way they’re paid, if we don’t reduce the need to get a full day of wages by working more than a full day of hours, then the fatigue risk will always be there.

But now, finally, there is some movement in Congress to address this problem. Representative Andy Levin (from Michigan!) introduced H.R. 7517, the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act (GOT Truckers Act), which would void the exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act that exempts truck drivers from receiving overtime.

And here’s where you can help. Please email your House of Representatives member, and ask them to cosponsor H.R.7517 to allow truck drivers to be paid overtime. You can find the name and website of your Member of Congress here.

This bill won’t fix all the issues surrounding fatigue in the trucking industry, but it’s a start. Let’s see if we can raise our voices for the safety of everyone. Truck drivers included.

Thank you, as always, for your support. I recently did a birthday Facebook fundraiser for the Truck Safety Coalition, setting my goal at $400. I raised $1,000. I have the best friends. If you happen to have missed it and want to tip me over that $1,000 mark, the fundraiser is up for a couple more days. And if you donated already, thank you soooooo much.

You guys make me smile. I think Dad’s smiling too.