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Why the truck industry pay model is fundamentally flawed

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 26th, 2015

Study will focus on how different payment models – hourly, per mile and per trip – correlate with preventable truck accidents and safe driving habits

truck industry pay model

Readers of this trucking legal blog are already well aware that we view the entire trucking industry pay system as a fundamentally unsafe business model.

Under the current pay model, most drivers are paid by the mile. So there is more of an incentive for truck drivers to violate mandatory safety rules. After all, the more miles they drive, the more money they make. Truckers are generally not paid by the hour, which is much safer.

So, the trucker who drives exhausted or is over his hours of service, is not only getting paid, but he is getting paid more to drive even when it’s a threat to his own safety and everyone else on the road.

Safety lobbyists have long been pushing for reform of this dangerous industry standard. In fact, many union groups have already made the switch. We also discussed this issue last year, when one trucking company that does pay by the hour, Dupre Logistics, was shown to have dramatically reduced its driver turnover and improve safety by switching to an hourly pay model.

Well, it looks like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is now looking more aggressively into the issue. The FMCSA recently announced that it sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget a request for its approval on a study that will seek to determine the correlation between driver pay and safety.

The FMCSA says it hopes to determine whether a relationship exists between how drivers get paid — mileage, hourly, percentage, etc. — and their safety performance. This includes the likelihood that the driver is involved in causing a preventable crash.

Commercial transportation companies can switch for the right reason or they can switch for the wrong reason. The right reason is because – as Dupre Logistics and as I believe the FMCSA study will show – there’s certainly a correlation between being paid by mile and an increased likelihood of a crash, especially when compared to truckers being paid by the hour.

The wrong reason is because one day, a driver who should have stopped driving but was given incentive to continue, kills or seriously injures someone, and faces an attorney who raises this pay model in a lawsuit against the company. It has already been successfully litigated in many serious truck accident cases. And depending on the egregiousness of the safety violations committed, may even form the basis for an attorney adding an additional count for punitive damages against the company.

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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