In June, USA Today published the results of its investigation of labor violations in the trucking industry, using interviews with more than 300 drivers, hundreds of hours of sworn labor dispute testimony, and a review of contracts that were never revealed to the public. The shocking report, “Rigged,” exposed “a truck driving industry rife with labor violations, forcing truckers into working conditions akin to indentured servitude.” Overworked, underpaid, and exhausted, truck drivers and others involved in truck crashes are dying in numbers that have grown by 17.3 percent from 2009 to 2013.
Among the labor violations revealed by USA Today:
- Truck drivers are routinely paid less than the minimum wage.
- Trucking companies force drivers to work more hours with fewer rest stops than required by federal law (11 hours in a single day)—as many as 100-120 hours a week. USA Today reporter Brett Murphy told PBS Newshour, “they cook their log books. …And a lot of the companies not only know that their drivers are doing that, but they require it. We found instances of dispatchers withholding paychecks until drivers doctored their log books.”
- Trucking companies are exploiting a loophole in the labor law. By calling their drivers, who usually work more than a 40-hour week, “independent contractors,” they can deny them the benefits required for full-time employees.
- The companies pressured drivers to sign “lease-to-own contracts,” for newer, cleaner-driving trucks. Once the employees sign and owe money to their boss every week, “he companies use that as sort of a constant threat of punishment or retaliation. So, for instance, if they don’t want to work 14 or 16 hours, the boss might say, well, then, you can’t work tomorrow.” Said Murphy, “[Even] if the pay is so bad they’re taking home pennies on the hour, they have no choice but to say yes.”
Murphy told PBS, “This isn’t a case of a few bad trucking companies accused of mistreating a handful of workers. Since 2010, at least 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims in civil court or with the California Department of Industrial Relations’ enforcement arm. … Judges have sided with drivers in more than 97% of the cases heard.”
Still, reported the Huffington Post, “Congress has been caving, very quietly, to lobbying from trucking interests that want to roll back, block or modify at least a half-dozen important safety regulations.”
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