The trucking industry has fallen on hard times—at least, for the drivers it employs. An investigation by USA Today reveals that the industry is rash with labor violations, with underpaid, overworked, and exploited drivers treated more like indentured servants than employees with dignity. “Port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute,” said the report.
Truck drivers are a vital link in the supply chain, bringing goods inland from ports to distribution centers and stores. Drivers, many of them immigrants, are forced to work around the clock for 100, even 120 hours a week, violating safety regulations that limit the amount of time a trucker can drive without resting. They are then held responsible for mishaps and crashes caused in large part by fatigue.
“Rogue” trucking companies, and there are many, find many ways to conceal the labor and legal violations that so many of them use to avoid being held accountable. One of the most common ploys is to classify their employee drivers as independent contractors, working by the hour. Many companies underpay drivers by paying for less than the correct number of hours spent driving. Classifying drivers as independent contractors means the trucking company employers save the cost of the obligation to pay for an employee’s insurance, Social Security, and overtime. The employee has no right to sick pay or to join or form a union. Truck drivers also complain that the food industry commonly classifies them as “distributors.”
Additionally, reported a company that offers fuel cards to truckers:
- Many truck drivers are victims of wage theft or other violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- Trucking companies can cheat on their IFTA fuel tax reporting, filing late or underpaying.
- Commercial trucking companies routinely neglect their responsibility to ensure the safety of their drivers through training and monitoring.
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