A truck driver’s critique of the trucking industry
While I feed my family largely by handling catastrophic damage suits against trucking companies, I receive a lot of interesting communications from truck drivers critical of practices in the industry in which they are the underpaid pawns. The following was posted as a comment about a specific company, but I’m putting on the blog as a separate post that may well apply to practices in many companies in the trucking industry.
1. Does the company slogan involve the word "respect" because other employees do not give their drivers respect, and must be reminded by putting it in the recruiting slogan?
2. Do employees and mechanics talk to other associates as though they were little kids that need to be disciplined as a normal tone of conversation?
3. Does the DOT have to inspect their yards to verify that tires are mounted correctly, and that valve stems are not "hidden" so that drivers cannot check the air pressure?
4. Does the DOT have to inspect their yards to verify that older tires are not "recycled"so that the passenger side inner tires are hiding borderline tires from view?
5. Roads would be safer if DOT inspected all truck yards of all companies for defective equipment, and recorded the odometer reading of defective equipment, and would have a list of vehicles to watch for?
6. Will the company punish you with lowerer paying loads when you complain that you are unloading past your 14th hour, and have to log it "off duty", and will refuse future loads that require this?
7. Do work assignments come through outdated equipment so that you have to write everything down by hand, costing you valuable log time?
8. Even though inexpensive ink jet printers are compatible with this outdated equipment, they would rather you not keep records of your work assignments because they don’t trust you with lists of their customers?
9. Its easier to hide dispatch mistakes if it is time consuming for drivers to write all the details down?
10. They don’t want accurate documentation of work assignments because it is harder for DOT stops to audit log books for HOS violations without having to subpeana records from Corporate and give them advance notice?
11. If the company makes a payroll mistake, and you don’t write anything down, the company will save money if you can’t report it?
12. Does the company boast about cutting edge GPS location abilities to customers, and then give drivers directions that get you lost, or worse, in "no-truck" zoned areas?
13. Does the company depend on training students to keep and secure business, because students are paid at substantially below market rates, and are less familiar with proven business practices and possible business violations?
14. Does a company that depends on students for their customers end up with substandard service, clogging their docks and yards with slow moving trucks, and late deliveries compared to companies that don’t?
15. Will the company then expect to get more business but have to hold brain storming sessions to figure out how to do it without being honest with their customers?
16. Does a company that says you will get paid one amount per mile, come back and say those miles are really "zip code miles", not what you drive?
17. Will you be expected to pick up an empty trailer on one side of town and take it to the other, or another town near by, for free, because of zip codes?
18. Does the company tell you that "zip codes" pay evens out over time, but really leverage their software so that equipment is moved by a driver’s location, without pay or discounted pay whenever possible?
19. Does the company "advertise short haul pay", but then leverage their driver’s time so that "relays" disqualify them from extra accessorial pay (you pick a short haul load, and live unload it, but are disqualified from extra pay because you are not the "original driver")?
20. Will you be late because dispatchers are relying on zip code miles, instead of "practical miles", and making promises they can’t keep because they are "practically clueless"?
21. Does a company tell you that they can’t pay "practical miles", because it’s always been done the other way, and their customers won’t pay more (are you paying for 1991 prices for gas)?
22. Will you be told how much free time you can spend each day for breaks, or will they just expect you to go without because they barely have time to get your next load, let alone manage your time? (if they don’t manage your off time, you may miss mileage goals?)
23. Will they just make up the "estimated time of arrival", and expect drivers to give the correct time, dispatchers are too busy to figure it out, they can just give their customers an imaginary excuse if they are too far off?
24. Does the company value your input by forcing confidentiality agreements or telling drivers they can not say anything negative about the company?
25. Will you be harassed daily about saving fuel, but be expected to park in between two trucks idling (you can’t always park where you want to)?
26. Will you be working for a company that is "testing" technology, or using it (fleetwide autoshift, apus, brand name trucks, etc?)
27. Will you be able to sleep as though a lawnmower were outside your window (diesel generators) as frequently happens at truck stops?
28. Will you be expected to use life-support equipment on your face on a truck you are not supposed to idle if you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder?
29. What is the average hold time on the phone when asking for any department representative, this can be checked by anyone?
30. Will you be given routing assistance to help you determine a legal route, according to your permit book, or will you be expected to "figure it out" costing you valuable duty time in your log book?
31. If the equipment becomes unserviceable, but is not documented or observed by the previous driver, can you be held responsible for damages?
32. Does the company offer "easy financing" and allow you to buy used equipment, knowing that the equipment will break down, and if you can’t fix it, they can repossess it, and still bill you for the repairs?
33. Does the company offer "cutting edge technology", "select your own loads", but only if you are there for 1 year, some people don’t make it that long as contractors?
34. Does the company cater to clients that have limited parking ability, and must use appointment times because there is only room for one or two trucks at a time?
35. Are company students given a boot-camp style training that crams you in an old school bus, wondering if you are going to make it to training alive or not?
36. Are company students told that on the road training will only take several days, but it really depends on how slow the other student is who you are forced to train with, which could take weeks?
37. Are company students told that on the road training will only take several days, but they are kept out on the road longer because more money can be made by the company for "team driving"?
38. Can you imagine picking out a truck driver at a truck stop, and being forced to train with him or her for a few weeks?
39. Because the company does not give their drivers printers for their work assignments, valuable duty time on their log books must be spent documenting their work assignment information and directions to the client because it must be done by pen or pencil?
40. If you do complain about something, will you be given difficult loads to perform, and lower miles?
41. When it is all said and done, will you make $1000 one week, and the rest of the month average half that?
42. Are you prepared to loose money because of Hours of Service Rules, which could force you to loose 34 days (34hr * 24) or more a year from "34hr restarts" at truck stops hundreds of miles from home?
43. The drivers that make the most money don’t take any time at home off?
44. Does the company try to make money off the drivers in their off time through a company store, and a restaurant, by trying to use their "terminal" as a "truck stop"?
45. Do major truck companies all act the same, because that’s the way it is always been done, and they can just get another driver who doesn’t complain?
46. Does the company try to deduct a daily entitlement by the IRS (which is not determined by miles driven) by paying you a pay rate based on miles driven and effecting your per mile pay?
47. If the pay plan involving per diem "calculations" was truly legitimate, or not leveraged in their favor, why would they need your permission to "participate"?
48. Does the company install auxiliary power heating AND cooling unit’s fleet wide, not on a testing basis?
49. Will you be required to have the truck in for maintenance by a certain mileage, but force dispatches you on a load that will have you no where near a facility within that time?
50. Are companies that refuse to adapt to better pay and working conditions, holding on to the old ways by relying on special favors from Congress to let in Mexican drivers, and are actively petitioning for new visas, rather than supporting local drivers?
51. Does the company tell their "independent contractors" that they can refuse a load, but it is not clear that you will not be responsible for fines or charges once it is assigned you?
52. If a company can fine or charge you for a load once you refuse it, are you really an independent contractor or an employee?
53. Do drivers get a receipt of log book days received, or will they be denied benefits, priveleges, or even fined if they happen to make management angry about something, and the log book pages become missing, even though they were sent in weeks ago?
54. Are drivers exposed to harmful dust collecting in the trailers from neglect of being washed out, which then gets on their clothes, and inside the truck into all of the gear, much like compression commercial divers get sick from contamination while in their chambers for long periods of time?
55. Are customers exposed to harmful dust collecting in the trailers from neglect of being washed out, and is stirred up by forklifts?
56. Are drivers given a false sense of security because the trailers are painted orange, but the real color is road grime because they are not washed frequently?
57. Are drivers exposed to preventable back injuries, because the trailers are not cleaned properly of winter road solvents which corrode the tandem sliding mechanisms?
58. Are customers exposed to preventable back injuries, because the trailers are not cleaned properly of winter road solvents which corrode the tandem sliding mechanisms?
59. Does the company slogan regarding pride come from being proud to require that drivers or independent contractors cannot bring a class suit against them if systematic fraud is discovered, due to arbitration agreements?
60. Do some drivers say that trucking is hard, because they live with bad habits developed over the years, and should customers reward such attitudes with their business?
61. Can you get a government grant for free training at your community college that you do not have to pay back?
61. Can you get a government grant for free training at your community college that you do not have to pay back and still have enough free time to work a full time job making as much as you would as a student driver (and see your family too)?
62. Does upper management coordinate with federal, state, and local officials making transportation decisions to include civil road engineers, opportunities to ride the roads with drivers on limited tours to get a first hand view of the impact of new road designs?
63. Are tire treads shredded by drivers having to dock in facilities not designed for 53ft trailers or because air pressures are not maintained correctly?
63. Are tire treads shredded by drivers driving with overweight trailers until they can get them scaled out (there are now scales you can install on the truck?)?
64. Will you be spending valuable log time scaling out loads because the customers are unfamiliar, and you don’t have truck scales, and must go to a truck stop, without affecting your delivery time?
65. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to add air to a tire to get the right pressure, if you pick up a trailer in the afternoon, will you have time to do this?
66. Drivers don’t get paid to put air in tires, and maintenance people say it is a driver’s responsibility, so what if you don’t get paid for it, and have to air up 6 or 7 tires a week, you don’t have to log it as duty time because that would cost you an hour or two a week?
67. Would you put these questions in a survey and mail them to your customers to see if your customer service goals are being met?
68. Would you put these questions in a survey and mail them to representatives of Congress to support their petition for visas for Mexican drivers?
69. would you ask members of Congress if this company needs special visas for Mexican drivers, when significant numbers of loads could be gained with bettter time management, and elimination of bad habits?
70. Do company drivers with seniority have to wait for loads because students are paid less, and have priority getting load assignments?
71. Does this average phone hold time indicate that work loads are leveraged so that employees are overworked?
72. Does the average phone hold time mean that you will loose up to an hour a day or more talking to representatives if you have to make several calls that day?
73. Do drivers face potential health problems from sweeping out trailers that are not washed frequently, and the dust from the clothing infiltrates their gear and sleeping quarters, much like commercial divers suffer from saturation chamber contamination issues?
74. Since drivers are not given printers for their work assignments, are they logging a minimum of 45 minutes of calculating out their available work hours per assignment, writing down all instructions, checking maps for legal routes, or are they expected to do these "off duty", when other companies are paying their support teams to legally perform these functions for their drivers?
75. Does the company give their drivers work assignments whenever they get to them, or do they plan them so that drivers are not enroute to one customer, and expected to calculate new arrival times, understand the next work assignment, and determine road routes?
76. Are drivers given inadequate time to determine load requirements, resulting in inaccurate ETAs because they are enroute with another work assignment, which will paint them in the long run as a driver who is not skilled, even though the many of the work assignments are sometimes ready for pickup 24 to 48 hrs earlier?
77. Will customers and other drivers have to wait several minutes while drivers have to try to slide tandems stuck with corrosion or not routinely replaced from previous drivers having to hammer them, while at the gate or other business areas?
78. Will drivers be given work assignments regardless of available parking areas near by, or expect them to sit at a customer’s place of business while they figure out where to send them next?
79. Is a lack of training regarding parking areas leaving dispatchers overworked because drivers have to address this issue, and it affects availability issues and delivery times?
80. If you were looking for a company to drive for or hire, would you want to tour their yard first, and look at the equipment, and know what to look for?
81. Anyone could ask these questions, a customer, a driver, a friend of a driver, an employee, a mechanic, an attornery?
82. These questions will help a community determine whether this company wants to use drivers as an expendable commodity, regardless of the possible additional burden they may place on that community?
83. Would you recruit for this company?
84. Would people threaten your career if you asked these questions, even though you served this country honorably, and could possibly be US Special Forces, or be in a position to refer US veterans to this company for employment?
85. Would you be able to use the majority of these questions to identify issues that need improvement or to demonstrate that people like bad habits, and have no interest of changing them, because they don’t have to, by anaylzing the responses to these questions?
86. Would you be able to determine what questions to ask a company unless you were prepared to do so, education or otherwise?
87. If you multiply the paid miles by 100 and divide by the percentage of time used that week you will determine the maximum amount of miles you can run that week if that time is not managed differently?
86. Would you think drivers are underpaid if they have to contend with all of these issues in addition to their normal extraordinary circumstances involved with their job?
87. Is the trucking industry weakening America by keeping drivers silent from any complaints?
88. Will the trucking industry grow stronger by addressing all of these issues?
89. You should invest in this company, because a company saves more money by using old tires, rather than save $40 or more a day in fuel savings from new tires?
90. Owner operators should drive for companies that use old tires on their trailers, because the extra money they are paid makes up for the fuel loss?
91. One tire under inflated by 10 pounds can cost an extra $40 a day in fuel?
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.