CA Truck Accident Attorney Reacts to John Oliver Segment

This video features Michelle M. West, a Personal Injury attorney based in California.

Newport Beach 18-Wheeler Truck Accident Lawyer

Video Transcript:

Michelle West: 

All the hours that they spend waiting for their loads, all the hours that they can't control sitting in traffic where there's no miles ticking, that is increasing their pay, they are suffering for it.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Recently on the John Oliver show last week tonight, he talked about driver shortages and safety issues in the trucking industry. We're gonna go further into the topic with trucking attorney Michelle West on today's Ask the lawyer. Michelle, thanks for joining us.

Michelle West: 

Thanks for having me.

Molly Hendrickson: 

So you've seen the John Oliver Show last week tonight, where he really broke down the issues with the trucking industry and why there are shortages of drivers in the US. I thought it was fascinating. What did you think of the piece?

Michelle West: 

It was heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time, I mean John Oliver did, as he always does, a great job, really exposing these issues, that there's so many layers to them, but they will all affect all of us on so many levels. I mean as I'm watching it and I'm getting a delivery from a driver, and I thought, My gosh, it's a very timely issue with this, the supply chain issues, and road safety... Always or at the a top of mind for all of us.

Molly Hendrickson: 

And one of the things that he talked about was how these drivers are paid, that they're paid by the mile and not hourly, is there a problem with this, do you think?

Michelle West: 

There's absolutely a problem, and any trucking lawyer is gonna tell you from their experience, they have definitely had cases where the driver is pushing it and they're pushing it because they have family, they're pushing it because they have loads with deadlines and they're pushing it because they don't wanna be denied future loads, so they need to get paid, they wanna pay their bills, they wanna support their family, and they're getting paid by miles, so that means all the hours, and just like in the John Oliver piece, all the hours that they spend, waiting for their loads, all the hours that they can't control sitting in traffic where there's no miles ticking, that is increasing their pay, that they are suffering for it. And they need to be compensated for their time. They need to be treated like human beings. And if they get better respect and better treatment, I'm sure that the safety will also improve because these are people who have to push it, when they don't wanna drive, when they're tired, when they shouldn't be driving, and even when they know it. But as you can see in the piece, they're getting pressure from the dispatcher, they're getting pressure from the people who are waiting for the load or the owners of the load, whoever it may be, telling them, that I don't care if you're tired, this it is not acceptable. Keep going.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Yeah, you talk about that pressure to just keep going, to fight through being tired, and in these extreme circumstances, is this something that you've seen in your practice?

Michelle West: 

Absolutely, we just concluded a case where a driver fell asleep on the roadway and unfortunately it caused death and it caused serious harm, and again, it's tragic on so many levels, but there should be compassion for these drivers, we all rely on them so much for everything that we have, including all the equipment that we're using today to do an interview and everything that we have in... And like in my office here, it was provided by a truck driver and it's a very tough job, and we've seen it many times, and in many cases, that the truck drivers are tired, they are working hard and they are really pushing it to make sure that they get the miles that they need to get that paycheck.

Molly Hendrickson: 

So as an experienced trucking attorney, what changes do you think need to be made to make the industry safer and keep it open and effective?

Michelle West: 

Well, one thing that definitely needs to be considered is paying these people well and paying these people for their time, and in the John Oliver piece, you could see, sometimes you see that they'll make... Oh, $150,000. Well, that's great money, but if they are making that money and being required to pay for the gas and required to pay for the maintenance and required to pay for all this other items on the track, which leaves them with only $20,000, then... That's not a livable wage. And then if they're not getting paid for their time and they're only getting paid for miles, then that's also not adequate, that's gonna cause them to really push it, to drive when they shouldn't, and it's not fair for anyone, their safety, the public safety, it's just not fair.

Michelle West: 

So we really have to as a society, just to decide How do we wanna treat these people, how do we wanna deal with this issue, and I think paying them for their time and not the miles is one way. Also in the John Oliver piece, you saw that sometimes the driver will be an owner operator and not an employee of the company that is benefiting from their work, and the liability for something that goes wrong is gonna be taken on by the driver or the owner operator of the truck and not the actual company that is really calling the shots about where the driver is supposed to be and when they're gonna be hauling the load, and when they can sleep and when they can get their load.

Michelle West: 

So we really need to, as a society, determine... Does this make sense? Is this fair? Should that liability be attached to the person or the entity that's really benefiting from the, you know, the transportation of the product, their the product can not get to the people, unless the driver does it. So really for safety sake and just for better treatment of the drivers and road safety, those are two things I think that we really need to consider.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Michelle, Always great to see you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

Michelle West: 

Thank you.

Michelle West: 

And that's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the lawyer. My guest has been Michelle West, and if you wanna ask her about your situation, you can call the number on the screen. Thanks for watching, I'm Molly Andrinkson for Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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