Truck driver loses his job just for following safety regulations

A recent lawsuit raises concerns that safety regulations may be compromised in the name of employment efficiency and revenue. Specifically, a truck employer claimed that his employer wrongfully terminated him for complying with federal hours-of-service regulations. He refused a load because it would have put him over his allotted service hours.

Under federal law, truckers have some protection against coercion. For example, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act prohibits employers from punishing or firing employees who refuse to drive loads for certain reasons, including adverse weather, driver illness that would impair truck operation, or when safety regulations would be violated.

The employer, which has 75 trucks in its fleet, claimed other reasons for the firing: that the trucker had refused other loads for no valid reason, had withheld an employment position on his employment application, and had been late to a meeting with his supervisor. Fortunately, several matters of the trucker’s employment were documented, including his service logs and maintenance records regarding the vehicle. There was no evidence that the trucker had refused “multiple loads;” the only other refusal involved a maintenance issue.

An administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Labor apparently agreed and ruled for the trucker. The judge awarded the trucker almost $200,000 in back wages. The judge also ordered the employer to reinstate the trucker.

The article is an important reminder that everyday pressures often compete with safety. In fact, that conflict extends beyond truck drivers. Car drivers also may take liberties with their safety when they are running late, such as speeding or using a cellphone behind the wheel to multitask their work duties. Unfortunately, such negligent driving behavior may increase the risk of a car or truck accident.

Source: Overdrive, “Trucker gets nearly $200k from carrier in refusal to drive firing,” James Jaillet, Aug. 4, 2016

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