US Truck Drivers Call For Federal Action To Improve Working Conditions
US truck drivers are currently pushing for federal action to be taken to improve the conditions in which they’re working. Drivers are asking for higher ups to address their deteriorating working conditions, decreasing pay, and rampant fraud.
Caleb Fernandez is a part of the movement, and has been a long-distance truck driver since 2017. He stated to the media that he will often spend hours loading and/or unloading his truck’s cargo without getting paid for the full time.
“I think that I’ve got my schedule down and then just one customer can completely mess it up. Even if there’s an appointment, they just don’t show much that they care about wasting my time.”
“My whole week gets wrecked because of one customer that just didn’t care about the time. It’s a chaotic life,” he said.
May 1st of this year, 75 members of the Truckers Movement for Justice held a protest outside of the US Department of Transportation offices in Washington DC, demanding action be taken on things like wage theft, lack of overtime pay, and unpaid wait times for delivering cargo or taking on loads.
The group met with senior officials from the Department in 2021 as a part of President Joe Biden’s trucking action plan, and set initiatives that were meant to increase the supply of truck drivers. The group has claimed that they have yet to see any improvement on the three core demands made during the meeting.
“We’ve lost our patience. This has been going for years and has only gotten worse with the lack of federal action. We don’t need taskforces and studies,” said Fernandez, who is also the deputy secretary for Truckers Movement for Justice.
When we look at the stats and consider the impact of inflation on salary, truck drivers in the US in 1980 made about $110,000 annually, and today they make, on average, about $48,000. There are currently more than 2 million Americans working as truck drivers today.
Ray Randall also spoke on the hours he’s worked unpaid, and other working conditions that he was not compensated for in his 20 years working as a truck driver.
“Drivers should be paid detention time. We believe all drivers should be paid for all hours worked, because once you come on duty, you’re working. If you come to a shipper and have to wait, I’m working. Also, after 40 hours, companies pay employees overtime but drivers don’t get any overtime and we can put in 70-plus hours a week. We can be on duty 12 hours a day and we’re not getting paid for those 12 hours,” he explained.
William McKelvie, a truck driver for over 25 years, explained that “in addition to unpaid detention time, broker fraud and a lack of overtime pay, layover rates for overnight hauls have decreased in years, down from $500-$1,000 to $250 or less.”
“Drivers have a right to review freight bills, which provide the transaction information regarding loads to ensure all parties that no one is being ripped off. Many brokers will blackball or push drivers out for requesting to see freight bills, to avoid any pushback or criticism of how the costs are dispersed from shippers to brokers and what portion is paid out to drivers,” said McKelvie.
“This is something that corporations and others have used their strong arms and intimidation tactics to overrule and overpower the working men and women in the industry,” he said.
“The more of our time that they waste, the more it hurts us financially, economically, and the ability to go and get our proper rest and relax for the next load,” McKelvie said.
“From back in the day we went from working 50 hours a week to 60 hours a week, to now we are at 70 hours a week, and with the extended work, that doesn’t give us any time for any real-life quality,” he said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.