How To Protect Your Legal Rights As A Truck Driver

by • September 5, 2021 • The Legal WorldComments (0)294

As a truck driver, you are likely to get involved in issues concerning your legal rights during your long career. Because of this, it is crucial that you become aware of the laws that protect you as a truck driver. The first rule in protecting your rights as a truck driver is to get to know them. In this article, we will look at the rights of a truck driver, so you can stay aware and stay ahead. 

Work Hours

As a commercial driver, you are to work for 14 hours per day and are required to drive for 11 hours per day. You should take a compulsory 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving, and you should not operate a truck if you have worked over 70 hours on an eight-day schedule. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to this law being tweaked a little, with respect to the 30 minutes break. There was a previous requirement to take a 30-minute break as an off-duty activity after 8 hours of driving. Now you can take your break while on duty.

This change encourages drivers to earn while on breaks, since employers do not pay off-duty breaks. Other changes allow you to add an extra two hours to your 11-hour driving time and your total 14-hour work day time in case of adverse conditions.

The purpose of the law is to reduce the rate of accidents on the road caused by drivers’ fatigue. Accidents are frequent among truck drivers on the road, and so this law exists to protect you from an accident because of driver fatigue.

There have been situations where employers try to coerce drivers into taking more hours than recommended. You can and should report the employer. You can file a complaint to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) without fear of retaliation from your employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is there to assist you with The Surface Assistance Act. The program protects truck drivers who report breaches or refuse to break commercial motor vehicle safety regulations.

Liability

It’s only natural now that we have mentioned how frequent accidents are in this job that we should cover the corresponding liabilities. The first thing to know about accidents is that if you are driving within your employer’s working hours and carrying out your duty as an employee when you get involved in an accident, your company is liable for the damages. Of course, sometimes you (the truck driver) can be liable as well. The situations where you are liable to pay are:

  • If you are an independent contractor: If it is your truck that you fuel and repair, and pay for your commercial license fees, you are personally liable. Some truck companies know of these, and so most times will sign a new employee as an independent contractor, so as to limit their liability in any motor accident.
  • If you act outside your employer’s scope of work: Any accident that occurs outside the working hours or Job description of your employer becomes your liability. In court, the debate regarding the definition of “scope of work” is common.
  • If you act deliberately or knowingly: If you caused an accident purposely, then you are liable. An example is hitting another person’s vehicle out of anger.

With this said, there are still some tips to know when involved in an accident. An experienced St Louis Missouri truck accident attorney advises that preserving evidence from the accident site will help the case. You should also follow your doctor’s instructions, keep the receipt of your medical bill, have evidence of loss of income, and keep a journal to record possible emotional scars.  

Wage Right

Some truck drivers typically get paid by the number of miles covered or on a piece-rate basis, such as the number of trips taken. These methods are okay most of the time, but sometimes they can become problematic. The problem occurs if the total money you receive that day divided by the hours you worked is less than the federal minimum wage.

An example is if Jimmy’s employer pays $80 to make a single delivery trip, and it takes 8 hours to complete this trip. In this scenario, Jimmy’s employer is fair since the $10 will be higher than the minimum wage of $7.25. If Jimmy took 12 hours to complete his trip, he would make $6.70 an hour and therefore violate Jimmy’s rights.

Working Conditions

As an employee, if your employer is in charge of the maintenance of the vehicle, then the employer has to ensure it is in proper working condition. You have a right to refuse to drive the truck if you believe it is unsafe. 

In some cases, if you complain about a problem on a trip, but your employer is indifferent about the issue, you can stop by the nearest weigh station and perform a level 1 DOT inspection. Doing this inspection will help confirm your suspicion, and you can also use this inspection as conclusive proof should the check-up show the truck is in poor condition. 

If an employer threatens you because you refuse to drive an unsafe vehicle, file a report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Personal Injury Claim

You have the right to file a personal claim against a third party who has caused you injury during a job. It may be another truck driver, their company, or a motorist that caused you direct harm. If you can prove that the other person’s negligence led to your injuries, then you can make a claim.

If you are an independent contractor, you can also file against your employer. Where the injury you suffered is because of your employer’s instruction or action, then you can file a claim.

As a truck driver, understanding your legal right is the first step in protecting yourself. In the industry today, there have been a lot of truck drivers who have been taken advantage of because they did not know their rights. We hope with this article, you are better informed and equipped to protect yourself in the future.

Photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash

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