As a trucker, spending hours on long haulage can sometimes already be a hassle. There is no need to add extra difficulty because you don’t know your trucker rights.
Be it labor rights, personal injury compensations, overtime and time off, wages, and payment deductions, you must be well-equipped with the right information to make your trucking career much more enjoyable. We will effectively discuss many such rights in this article to help you properly circumvent or navigate issues when they arise.
Your Right to Work in Safe Conditions
Safety first! This cannot be overemphasized, considering that you would not be employed at first if a previous hazard incapacitated you from working in your current organization. This is why your employer must ensure your safety at all times.
As a truck driver, you have the right to refuse to drive unsafe vehicles that are poorly maintained. Some employers may want to force you to drive such trucks. But remember that you could potentially implicate yourself alongside the employer when such overturn leads to a mishap.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) already has a set of rules that trucking companies are bound by, and safety regulations are an integral part. You have the right to report to the FMCSA if these happen:
- Your employer requests that you carry out tasks that disregard the provisions of the FMCSA.
- You inform your employer that carrying out such a task violates federal or state laws for safety practices.
- The employer threatens you when you refuse to violate such regulations.
You should file a complaint against your employer within 90 days with as much evidence as possible.
When threats are explicitly made toward your employment status, you can always report them to the Occupational Safety Hazards Administration (OSHA). Be aware that your employer has no right to fire you if:
- You refuse to drive a bad or poorly maintained truck
- You report that there is a violation of a truck’s safety requirements.
- You testify or participate in investigations involving such violations or any court proceedings from an aggravated issue.
Your Rights to Compensation in the Event of a Mishap
When driving on the road, accidents that cause damage to the truck, and more importantly, injury to the involved people, may occur. In some very gruesome scenarios, there may be fatalities. As a truck driver, whether you are at fault or not, it is important to have at the back of your mind that there are instances where you may not be liable. In fact, there are situations where you should even be compensated.
- When the company is liable.
When there is a direct injury to you in an accident, you have a right to medical benefits and income benefits. Your employer is liable for the truck accident so long as you, being a truck driver, are within the scope of your employment when the accident occurred.
Other instances where the employer will be liable are negligence in proper maintenance of trucks, requiring truck drivers to work beyond their legally designated hours, oversight in compliance with standard eligibility requirements when hiring the truck driver, or direct flouting of the FMCSA regulations, as stated earlier.
- When the truck driver is liable
However, note that you may be liable if you are not a direct employee of the trucking company. Some employers hire truckers as independent contractors. Independent contractors are usually the owners of the truck driven. They are also responsible for gas payments and other licensing fees. When you find yourself in this situation, your employer may be exonerated from the liabilities of the mishap. Talking to a lawyer when validating your employment status as an employee or an independent contractor is important.
You may also be liable as a truck driver when a hazard occurs while driving outside your work scope. Some truck drivers may be caught in an accident while driving for personal errands. Sometimes too, investigations show that some truck drivers directly cause the mishap due to reckless driving, drunkenness, or anger.
For instance, when a trucker deliberately rams into the rear of a vehicle in annoyance, they are liable for the damages caused in the accident and may have to bear the cost. However, they will be responsible when the employer is aware of the driver’s issues and still proceeds to allow him to drive. In addition, some law-abiding third parties involved in an accident may also be willing to pay for compensation if it is established that they are at fault.
Compliance With Your Wage Rights and Labor Laws as a Trucker
It is incumbent upon your employer to obey every wage law provided in the federal or state regulations. A violation of your wage law often comes with dire consequences for the trucking company when addressed. Many employers know this and usually try to circumvent the rules using various means.
Firstly, your employer must pay the minimum wage for truck drivers that apply to the state in which they are located. The minimum wage ranges from about $10 to $39 per hour. In compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the minimum wage must be met, whether by the number of working hours or by miles covered. You can divide the hours worked or miles covered by the minimum wage to know if your employer meets this requirement.
You are also required to work a maximum of 14 hours per day by law. This includes about 11 hours of active driving. Sometimes, the time spent loading and unloading the truck is also calculated as part of the working hours. The remaining hours are for your rest and to attend to other personal matters.
When an employer violates any of these labor laws, a class action suit can be instituted against them. A class action suit is a lawsuit that enables many individuals affected by a common misdemeanor to come together as a single entity against the erring company.
Truck drivers are at the heart of moving goods that are important for daily human activities or consumption. Therefore, they deserve to be treated well. The only way to know that you are well treated in your job is when you know your rights. This can, in turn, translate to a promising trucking career over time. After all, being treated fairly means you have the opportunity to do your job efficiently and effectively.
These are answers to some questions that often come up when truck driver rights are involved.
Can I drive a truck in the US with a foreign license?
The US only permits holders of Commercial Drivers Licenses from some provinces in Canada and the government of Mexico to drive trucks within her borders. Other foreigners would have to get a license from the US government.
What are my responsibilities as a truck driver?
Some of your duties as a truck driver include driving for long hours, usually not more than 12 hours at a stretch, following traffic rules, reporting road incidents to the dispatcher, refueling, and washing of the truck, and sometimes, loading and unloading of cargo.