Trucking Companies Exploit Drivers, Contributing to Fatal Big Rig Crashes
Trucking Companies Exploit Drivers, Contributing to Fatal Big Rig Crashes

We know driver fatigue often contributes to big rig crashes, but are trucking companies to blame for this dangerous phenomenon?

In April, two people were killed in a big rig crash on Highway 58 west of Kramer Junction. This past March, four people died in another fatal big rig crash on Highway 177 near Desert Center.

These fatal big rig crashes are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to big rig fatalities nationwide.

The Desert Sun reports that there were 2.6 million big rigs on I-10 in 2015, a 37% increase. According to the DOT, tractor trailers and other large commercial trucks account for approximately 500,000 vehicle accidents in the U.S. each year. Ten percent of those end with at least one fatality. Moreover, in 80% of those accidents, it is the driver of the car who suffers the life-ending injury.


When a big rig vs. passenger vehicle crash occurs, remember that the fully-loaded 18-wheeler can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds, about 40 times the weight of a typical car.

Guess who survives to tell what happened? The California Highway Patrol says “the most common violation is speeding” (and it seems like they are all speeding on I-10). An error by the trucker can obviously cause a much greater loss than an error by a Prius driver. Also, we would all agree that most truck drivers do a good job and don’t want to crash. We need them, and they need to work.

Yet, again, let’s look at the bigger picture.

The problem goes beyond unsafe speed. We have to look at why the driver’s speed was unsafe. In the case of the Tracy Morgan crash involving a Wal-Mart truck, along with many others, fatigue is the culprit. That’s ridiculous, and it’s why some have called these big rigs “sweatshops on wheels.”

And unfortunately, it’s legal!

Paid by the mile, drivers are motivated to stay on the road to make as much as possible, and they are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Role of Exploitative Trucking Companies in the Big Rig Epidemic

If we dig deeper, we find an even more sinister situation at play. A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network takes a look at the way the port trucking industry in southern California takes advantage of drivers—many of them poor immigrant workers—by forcing them to drive excessive hours for next to no pay.

These companies force drivers to finance their own trucks. Thus, many drivers take on debt they cannot afford so they can work. The trucking companies then use the debt as leverage to force their workers into driving well over the legal number of hours truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel.

And when truckers get sick and can’t come in to work, or their trucks break down and they cannot afford repairs, the truck companies fire the workers. They then keep their trucks and all the money the worker had paid toward owning it. That’s not a lease—that’s indentured servitude.

These aren’t just a few trucking companies delivering to some obscure locations. According to trucking contracts that have been used as evidence in labor complaints, the trucking companies involved deliver to dozens of well-known retail brands, including Target, Home Depot, J.Crew, UPS and Costco. The USA TODAY investigation found that at least 140 trucking companies have been accused by at least one employee of these unethical practices.

Since 2010, roughly 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims with the labor commission. Fortunately, judges have sided with the drivers in more than 97% of the cases heard.

“These trucking companies are not only exploiting poor workers, but they are also endangering the public by forcing truckers to drive a dangerous amount of hours. Such practices are totally unacceptable, and it’s time for this entire industry to be scrutinized and regulated,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in a truck accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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