Truck driving is an active business, at times requiring strenuous schedules to get the work done. What you may not be aware of is that some of these schedules may not be 100% legal. Truck-involved accidents can lead to major damage and severe injuries, and driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of such accidents. Because of this, there are laws set in place to protect truck drivers from working in such conditions that result in fatigue and a distracted mind. Unfortunately, these laws are not always well-known, and many truck drivers are forced to deal with unreasonable demands of their employers. But, knowing your rights can help prevent finding yourself in situations which can have disastrous results.
According to the law, truck drivers are required to log the number of hours they work on a daily basis. The law also requires mandatory breaks at certain intervals to ensure that the drivers receive adequate rest throughout the day. Employers do not have the right to insist on a schedule that violates the hours allowed or the mandatory rest periods – to do so would be a violation of transport laws and could lead to prosecution.
Despite what the law says, some drivers may have justifiable fears that if they refuse the schedules set by their employers that their employment will be terminated. The law, however, provides for this, as well. According to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, employees are protected from termination, docking of pay, disciplinary punishment or discrimination, if their employers request something of them that is a violation of law. The Act also provides protection for employees who refuse to operate a truck because they have reasonable fears of serious injury to themselves or the public, due to the condition of the vehicle.
A driver can’t be forced to operate an improperly maintained vehicle. Companies dealing in the operation of large trucks are required to maintain their rigs in proper and smooth operating order – failure to do so may result in fines and license suspension. As such, random inspections of the vehicles may be carried out by the authorities to ensure that all of the vehicles in a company’s fleet adhere to the maintenance standards.
At times, truck drivers are terminated from employment for refusing to adhere to the unreasonable demands of their employer (or for some other unfair reason). However, as mentioned before, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act protects truck drivers from this. If a driver is a victim of being unfairly discharged from employment, he or she is not left without recourse. The truck driver has the right to file a formal complaint with the Secretary of Labor (within 180 days of the discharge), which will result in an investigation. If the allegations are proven to be correct, further action will be taken against the employer.
There are also steps that drivers can take to help themselves deal with exhaustion and burnout. Here are a few simple tips: (1) take frequent breaks to recharge the body; (2) drink lots of water to stave off dehydration and stay alert; (3) don’t attempt to falsify records so you can work more hours – this will backfire on you in the long run; (4) don’t ever drive a truck that you feel is unsafe, no matter what your employer says; (5) report violations to the Department of Labor – the laws previously mentioned will provide you (the driver) with protection against termination or disciplinary actions for doing so. Additionally, reporting these incidences might result in saving someone’s life (even your own) in the future.
Nobody likes to think about getting an attorney involved, but sometimes it just can’t be helped. Those laws set in place to protect you (and the general public) do you no good if you don’t take advantage of them, and to do that properly and effectively, you need a good lawyer on your side – someone who knows the laws and will fight hard to get you the protection and compensation you deserve. Don’t let your employer take advantage of you.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident due to the fault of the other party or the negligence of your employer, or if you were terminated or punished for not breaking the law, contact an attorney to help you explore all of your options. If you would like to talk to me or schedule a free initial consultation, I can be reached at the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim in Los Angeles, California at 1-800-529-8255 or at www.hakiminjurylaw.com. I have been representing truckers for over 20 years, and I can help you – and if you don’t win, you don’t pay, so let me fight for you!
~ Ms. Sharona Eslamboly Hakim comes from a family of accomplished attorneys, and was raised in Milan, Italy. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she attended UCLA and graduated summa cum laude. She later earned her Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School and joined the family practice. Ms. Hakim’s diligence and commitment to her craft led her to quickly climb the ranks, leaving her to run the workers’ compensation and personal injury departments. In 2008, she opened her own personal injury firm. Her success can be attributed to her endless enthusiasm and ferocity (she has recovered millions of dollars in settlements for her clients), as well as her unrivaled work ethic. Ms. Hakim speaks four languages (English, Italian, Persian and Spanish) and is an active member of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the California Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, and the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. We’d like to welcome Ms. Hakim to the 10-4 Magazine family of contributors.