Drivers Beware: Not All Trucking Fleets Are on the Up-and-Up

Stephen L Dalton

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The majority of trucking firms are legitimate and treat their drivers fairly. Most trucking firms want to take care of their drivers. After all, if not for the drivers, they would not be able to deliver the cargo and collect the transport fees.

For instance, Walmart may not pay its cashiers, stockers, and greeters very well, but they pay their drivers up to $90,000 a year. However, there are unscrupulous fleet owners who abuse the trust and respect the drivers give them.

Lease to Own or Indentured Slavery?

Some crooked trucking fleets are charging truckers $300 to $500 a week to lease a vehicle. That might seem fair on the surface, but when you look at the other costs associated with truck upkeep, it often means the driver makes less than minimum wage. Some use the immigrant driver’s lack of knowledge of the English language, particularly the written word, against them in contracts.

There are charges for maintenance, fuel, insurance, parking, and others in addition to the lease fee. Many drivers wind up taking home far less than minimum wage, especially when you consider the hours in the truck on the road.

Some trucking companies call it “lease to own,” but a more appropriate term would be “indentured slavery.”

Is the System Rigged in Favor of the Trucking Fleets and Against the Drivers?

In many cases, it would seem to be that the drivers are at the mercy of the trucking fleets and the system. Think about it. Why are these trucking fleets charging the driver maintenance on trucks they are leasing from the company to deliver cargo for them?

Let’s Take a Look at an Average Trucker’s “Lease to Own” Expenses Vs Earnings.

Say the driver “earns” $1000 in a week, subtract the $125 insurance, $300 lease, $100 maintenance fee, and another $300 for diesel, what’s left? What’s left is $175, far below the minimum wage for even a forty-hour workweek ($4.38 per hour).

You could make more flipping burgers at a fast-food joint and go home every night. Plus, these drivers are putting in way more than 40 hours and too many nights in their sleepers.

Plus, consider that a driver earning $.25 per mile must drive 4,000 miles to earn $1000, but at $.40 per mile, they only need to drive 2,500 miles. Conversely, if they drive 4000 miles, they make $1,600.

Therefore, drivers want to drive for the higher-paying fleets, obviously. The drawback of getting to those high-paying jobs are traffic tickets, years of driving, and English speaking ability.

Many of those firms that pay $.25 per mile hire anyone that made it through truck driver’s school regardless of their English language proficiency. They’re willing to take more risks because many probably won't stay in business for more than a few years until the DOT FMCSA shuts them down for multiple violations.

What is not apparent in those figures are times when a trucker is out on the road and spends two or three days waiting for a load. Plus, they’re not getting paid for the hours stuck in traffic or waiting to get loaded or unloaded.

They could wind up owing fleet management because they only earn while they’re actually driving, with most drivers only making 25 to 40 cents per mile.

Too Many Broken Promises & Dreams Derailed.

After a few months and too many broken promises, many drivers get a lawyer to sue the trucking fleet. For many of these truckers, part of the untold story is overweight loads, traffic jams, being forced to speed to make delivery deadlines, and violations at roadside inspections.

In California, for example, a trucker found guilty of using a cellphone while driving gets a fine of about $150. Unless it is a part of the system or mounted where the driver can operate it with just one touch of a finger and not leave their seated position, then, when that ticket reaches the DOT FMCSA, it will become part of their Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record, and they’ll be fined $2,750.

If the firm has a policy of allowing the driver to use a cellphone while driving, they could get an $11,000 fine. You can bet most have re-written their cellphone and handheld device policies by now.

There is a possible $2,125 fine for driving more than eight hours without a 30-minute break or more than 11 hours in a day. A wrong route or outdated map can mean a $4,175 fine for a driver hauling hazardous cargo. It’s also a misdemeanor crime. There are nearly 360 violations classified as misdemeanor crimes.

Some firms take care of trucking tickets; many do not. This driver had a judgment for an overweight truck amounting to $3,500, which the company told him not to worry about because they would handle it.

The trial date came and went, and now there is a failure to appear (FTA) as well. According to CA Vehicle Code 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear, the ticketed driver who willingly doesn’t appear in court “is guilty of a misdemeanor.” Now the driver who was told, “don’t worry about it” has a criminal record. Plus, a $300 administrative fee was added to the ticket, and that driver is no closer to owning their own truck.

Can the driver get a new driving gig with a misdemeanor violation? It isn’t very likely. Most firms will take one look at their Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) record and put it on the reject pile.

The average fine for an overweight truck by more than 1000 pounds is $1.00 per pound in California. Although that doesn’t seem like much, we’re talking about thousands of pounds usually. What’s more, if your truck, which is often loaded by someone else, is more than 4,501 pounds overweight, you face a criminal record if convicted.

The Court Orders Backpay for the Drivers

The court ordered the fleet to pay the drivers back pay and wages, amounting to $8,700,000—a total of $370,000 each, which most never received.

However, the company jettisoned the company name, its debts, and liabilities and started a business under a new name. Although the truckers never got paid, the company is back on the road, using many of those same trucks those drivers had leased to own.

What’s more, many of the same shipping companies are still working with them, knowing what they did to their former drivers, who will probably never see a dime of their court-ordered back pay.

The rich get richer while the poor worker gets screwed over!

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Stephen Dalton is a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Top Writer in Virtual Reality, Sports, Short Story, Design, and Creativity. I especially like writing about design and home improvements.

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