Driving a truck for a living is job as stressful as it is lucrative. With frequent loading, long hours, and plenty of time away from home, it is certainly not for the faint of heart, especially when considering the sheer size of most trucks means it is no easy task to drive and maneuver them. Because of this, there are plenty of regulations in Tennessee and around the country to keep truck drivers safe, along with the people around them, but unfortunately not everything can be enforced before something tragic happens.
Believe it or not, the way truck drivers are paid contributes to the number of truck-involved accidents, specifically because it encourages drivers to ignore the regulations set to help them.
An accident waiting to happen
With the way truck driving works, there is no set rate or singular way a driver is paid. It all depends on the company, the experience of the driver, the distance, and many other factors that vary themselves from place to place. A set figure, however, is not needed to explore this issue. The two main ways a driver is paid is hourly or by the mile. If they are paid hourly, it refers to how many hours the driver is on the road and loading/unloading their product. If they are paid by the mile, it refers to exactly that — their odometer determines their paycheck. Typically, a truck driver is paid under a dollar per mile.
Whether payment is hourly or by the mile, the issues are the same. Both methods encourage drivers to drive longer than they should, especially if the route they are taking crosses state lines or is otherwise more of a distance than usual. This can cause fatigue, which may sound mild, but fatigue impairs judgement and reflexes – not to mention risks the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets regulations called HOS (hours of service) meant to mitigate this problem. It dictates how many hours at a time a driver can be behind the wheel (both on and off-duty), how long they should rest, what conditions they can drive in (in cases of inclement weather), and most other contingencies that could affect a driver’s ability to travel safely. However, as previously stated, there is no real way to enforce these regulations before they are broken, just like with all other driving laws. Truck drivers and their employers do face hefty fines, but if a negligent driver has already gotten into a dangerous accident, this does nothing to help the victim.
If truck drivers know they could face hefty fines, why would they risk it? It is easy to see the appeal in money, but the fines greatly outweigh anything they would make (which could be anywhere from $1,000-$11,000).
The simple answer is they feel they have no choice. Truck driving is only as lucrative as the time – and distance – spent on the job. Because of the demands of this job, for most truckers it is their only source of income. This means those in financial struggles are inclined to risk their own lives and the lives of others by doing more than they should, whether it be in the spirit of tenacity or stubbornness to make ends meet however they are able.
This, however, is an explanation for their negligent behavior and not an excuse. Regardless of a driver’s financial situation, negligence is negligence. Accidents with trucks are amongst the most devastating possible due to their size compared to other drivers. All it takes is one misstep to change – or even end – a person’s life.
If you are the victim of a negligent truck driving accident, there are ways to hold the driver accountable for their actions. Every truck driver has both a logbook and a “black box” that tracks how long they are on the road and how many mandatory rests they have taken. That is precisely the evidence you need to file a personal injury claim against them as it allows you to prove they violated HOS regulations, which proves the driver’s negligence caused the accident.
This is not something to wait on. Negligent truck drivers and their employers need to be held accountable for the pain and suffering they caused. The experienced Chattanooga truck accident lawyers at Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law are here to help you do just that. Contact us at 423-756-7923 or via our contact form today for support and guidance you can trust. We serve Chattanooga, Cleveland, and North Georgia.
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