Part of my routine includes going to truck stops to meet with interstate truck drivers. Some are witnesses in cases, and some are clients injured when another truck hits their truck. It often occurs to me that truck drivers and trial lawyers have a lot in common. About 95% are pretty good folks who work hard to do a good job under adverse circumstances, while 5% give the rest a bad reputation.
This morning I visited with a truck driver while he was stopped at a truck stop near Atlanta for his rest break. A graduate of a nationally prestigious university, he illustrates the fact that many truck drivers are intelligent, well-educated people. He had several insights that confirm what I have heard from others:
- The worst part of the current hours of service rule is that it penalizes napping in the middle of a day’s run. Many drivers can operate more safely if they can take a rest stop in the middle of the day, with perhaps take a 30 minute nap. Thus refreshed, they are ready to drive several more hours. However, if that nap counts against the time they can legally drive, thus penalizing them for doing what is safest for them, that is a big problem.
- Shippers insist on delivery schedules without regard for whether the run can be completed safely and legally under that schedule. However, if a crash occurs, it is the driver and carrier who are stuck with responsibility, not the shipper that is calling the shots.
- Shippers weigh loads and know if the truck is overloaded, but if there is a fine or other sanction for being overweight, it is the truck driver and carrier who bear that burden, not the shipper that determined the weight of the load.
- Drivers who refuse loads that cannot be completed without violation of hours of service rules are penalized, even if there is not a formal "forced dispatch" system.
- It is extremely difficult to stay healthy while driving over the road. Truck stops do not have exercise facilities, and the food available at truck stops is almost universally high in calories, fat, cholesterol, salt, etc. He observed that many truck drivers drive down the road eating high fat chips, etc. The effects on driver health are predictable, as drivers gain weight and many ultimately develop sleep apnea, which may go undiagnosed because diagnosis would affect their driving status and income. This driver, who was once a professional athlete, says he jogs, walks or does calesthenics when the truck is being loaded and at rest stops, almost never eats truck stop food, and carries healthy groceries in the cab. I noted that the truck stop cafe menu was heavily laden with unhealthy items; I got oatmeal while my truck friend ordered toast.
- Despite the hardships of truck driving, the lure of the open road still has its allure to people from widely varied educational and career backgrounds. It would be tough on someone raising a family, but I can understand the appeal for a single guy who has grown bored with office jobs.
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 and bus accidents. Click here for a free consultation with no obligation.