Earlier this summer an administrative law judge at the Department of Labor ruled for a truck driver who was fired when he refused to violate federal safety rules limiting driver hours. The judge awarded the trucker back pay plus compensatory and punitive damages.
The article about the incident tells a story that is far too common — a trucking company pushes its driver to exceed safety rules which protect us on the highway. In this story, the trucker refused to break the rules. And, the company fired him. In an effort to excuse the firing, the trucking company later argued the driver had refused other loads, was late to a meeting and ignored calls from the company dispatcher. Yet, the documents and other evidence did not support these “claimed” reasons for the termination. These other reasons were simply not true.
Too many truck drivers face pressure to break the rules. Pressure to violate service hour limits. Pressure to drive trucks exceeding weight limits. Pressure to continue driving trucks with faulty equipment. Pressure to act in a way that puts the rest of us in danger. Many needless personal injuries and deaths are the result. It’s good to read this story of a trucker who put safety first and was supported by the administrative law judge.
In our law firm, we’ve seen far too many truckers who faced pressure to act in unsafe ways on our highways. When I read the article, I kept thinking about a recent case we handled where the trucking company kept a driver on the road and ignored multiple safety warning signs. The driver had severe medical problems limiting his ability to drive. Yet, the company ignored the problems. The driver had multiple accidents which were clearly his fault. Yet, the company ignored the accidents. The company ignored these safety issues as long as deliveries were on time. After years of ignoring huge safety issues, the company disciplined the driver for something completely different — being late with a load. That company was clear in its priorities and they certainly did not involve highway safety.
Many truckers and many trucking companies believe in safety. These companies work hard to follow our highway safety rules. Yet, a few companies carelessly ignore the lives of other drivers on the highway. These few companies don’t worry about trucker hours, truck load weights, dangerous equipment or other important safety rules. They don’t worry about us or our loved ones. It’s good to see a trucker protected when he took a stand for safety.