Truck Driving is Dangerous. What Rights Do Drivers Have?
While truck drivers spend much of their time sitting still inside a vehicle, that doesn’t mean they don’t face a huge number of dangers on the job. Truck driving actually has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous occupations a person can have. In 2015, 745 truck drivers were killed and thousands more were injured on the job. Research has shown that truck drivers are 233% more likely to suffer a non-fatal injury on the job than workers in other occupations.
Given that truck drivers spend much of their time on the road, they face standard road hazards that can cause an accident, like bad weather, roads that are in poor condition, and the actions of other drivers on the road. Many workers are also injured or killed while loading or unloading cargo, trying to handle heavy truck equipment, or falling while entering/exiting the truck cab or while working on a loading dock.
In addition to that, truck drivers typically work long hours, are forced to drive vehicles that shouldn’t be on the road, and are paid low wages, which results in a very high turnover rate in and more inexperienced truck drivers on the road to keep up with demand. And while there are federal regulations intended to keep truck drivers and other motorists safe on the road, drivers are often pressured to break those rules for the sake of making their employer happy.
If you’re a truck driver, what types of protections do you have if you’re hurt on the job? Or what if you want to report unsafe working conditions or refuse to violate safety rules?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace safety for many different types of workers and in some situations, their protections may extend to truck drivers. OSHA does not regulate self-employed truck drivers, but they do regulate places like docks, construction sites, and warehouses where truck drivers often pick up or deliver loads. If an accident happens at a location covered by OSHA’s rules and regulations, OSHA may take action against the company that owns the site where the accident took place if they failed to obey safety rules.
If you refuse to drive or take any other action because you know it would be violating safety regulations, or if you report an employer for violating safety regulations, you are protected by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). Under the STAA, an employer cannot retaliate against you for doing things like complaining about dangerous working conditions, reporting the employer for violating safety rules, refusing to violate speed limits, refusing to drive an unsafe vehicle, or for refusing to break hours-of-service regulations. Although OSHA has limited protections for truck drivers, if you believe your employer has violated the STAA, you can file a complaint through OSHA.
For truck drivers who are injured on the job, it’s important to consult an unsafe workplace lawyer as soon as possible. You may be eligible for workers comp, which would provide you with benefits for lost wages and medical treatment. Since many truck drivers are classified as independent contractors, a lawyer will be able to help you figure out what legal protections apply to your situation.