Economic incentives to break trucking hours of service rules
An article in Saturday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper highlights some of the systemic problems with hours of service and driver fatigue in over the road trucking. A few of the key points:
According to Gerald A. Donaldson, senior research director of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, more ingenious drivers routinely flout the regulations and know how to get away with it."I do not believe that most logbook violations are detectable."
Trucking safety advocates want the government to move away from paper logbooks and require big trucks to be fitted with electronic devices that automatically record driving hours. Some companies already use such recorders, and similar equipment is required on new trucks in Europe.
Those efforts face structural obstacles in the way business gets done in the crucial "truckload" sector, the growing long-haul wing of the industry. Truckload drivers are almost universally paid by the mile or the load rather than by the hour. That system, say experts – including safety administration chief John H. Hill – contains built-in financial incentives to break the rules.
- "Non-union drivers, who make up the great majority of the truckload sector, don’t have to be paid overtime. The result: Trucking companies – which operate in an intensely competitive, low-margin business and often serve customers who have come to rely on prompt delivery – pay no wage premium should they want drivers to pile on the miles."
"Five years ago, a pair of consulting firms analyzing proposed regulatory changes for the federal safety administration framed the situation in the dry but precise language of economics: ‘The marginal cost to the firm of an additional hour of driver labor diminishes constantly as the hours of work increase,’ the firms’ report said. In other words, the longer a driver stays on the road, the less those additional hours cost his employer."
"Off-duty time spent at truck stops and rest areas offers few recreational alternatives to the additional pay generated by keeping the wheels rolling. As the safety administration consultants put it: ‘They are willing to work an extra hour for a lower marginal wage (and cost to the firm), to maximize their earnings potential, in part because the value of leisure time out on the road is low.’"
- Shippers’ requirements create great incentives for truckers and trucking companies to break the rules. "There is pressure in the auto industry. . . . It’s one of the cheapest freights people can haul, and it’s on-time delivery. (If) they say you’ve got to be there by 0600, you’d better be there by 0600."
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.