How Trucking Companies Force Drivers to Break Safety Regulations

This video features Ryan Skiver, a Personal Injury attorney based in Arizona.

Arizona Truck Accident Lawyer Explains

Video Transcript:

Ryan Skiver:

These truck drivers have hard enough jobs as it is, and when they're pushed to violate these rules because of these strict time limits of delivering things, it can really be detrimental not only to them, but all of us in the roadway.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Do trucking companies push drivers to take risks? We're gonna find out right now on this episode of Ask the Lawyer, my guest is Arizona Attorney Ryan Skiver. I wanna remind you that if you'd like to ask Ryan questions about your situation, it's easy, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up top that says "ask a lawyer", or you can always call the phone number you'll see at the top of your screen. Ryan thanks for joining us today.

Ryan Skiver: 

Thanks for having me.

Molly Hendrickson: 

The last few years, we've recognized truck drivers are essential workers, both for our economy and our daily lives, do you think that their employers are treating them that way?

Ryan Skiver: 

That's a good question. Do you mean working them long hours and not paying them enough money? I think that they probably are, but in the way that we would hope that they would treat them to make sure that they're really taken care of and they're getting the rest that they need so that they can do their job in the best way possible. I'm not sure that that's happening with all of the different trucking companies out there, certainly there's good ones and there's bad ones, and it depends on who they're working for and what the different loads are that they're running, so it really depends on the trucking company and the drivers.

Molly Hendrickson: 

There are very specific rules that truck drivers have to follow such as time and hour limits, the amount of miles that they can drive, and also weight limits, can you talk a little bit about the rules that they're expected to follow?

Ryan Skiver: 

Sure. They're actually required to follow what's called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and I actually went to a truck driver training school to get my CDL so that I could better understand what they actually have to go through. One of the things that you spoke about was the hours of service, which is basically the maximum safe driving hours that they can do in a certain amount of time, so there's things like the 11-hour rule or 14-hour rule. And it just depends on what type of trucking they're doing. Another type of rule that's important for them to follow is a pre-trip inspection. Now, when we go and drive our regular cars, we obviously don't go out there and do a full inspection before we take them on the road, but we're not driving trucks that can weigh up to 80,000 or even more pounds, so it's not the same type of danger, whereas when you're a licensed commercial truck driver, you're required to do what's called a pre-trip inspection. It's really important because you go around the truck and make sure that everything is in a safe working order, so you're gonna go and look through the engine at the different lines and things like that to make sure that they're not broken.

You're going to go and check the brakes to make sure that the slack adjusters which work them are in proper alignment and have the right give, you're gonna check the tires to try to make sure you have enough tread to avoid blow-outs. And obviously that's very important that they're following these types of rules because they're surrounded by all of these smaller vehicles, these cars and pedestrians and bicycles, and with the weight that they're hauling around, if they don't have those things in good working order when they're out there on the roads, it can be a danger to all of us. So it's important that they follow those different standards to make sure they keep all of us safe when they're on the roadways.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Yeah, obviously, those rules are in place to protect all of us and the drivers themselves. Have you seen cases where these companies are pushing their drivers to the limits on these rules, maybe pushing them to break the rules even?

Ryan Skiver: 

I have, unfortunately, especially with those hours of service and the loads that they give them, they give them certain amount of times where they have to get it from the shipper to the receiver, and they may only have so many hours or days to get there, and part of that, they need the regular breaks to be able to go to the restroom or to sleep or to eat. They also need time allocated for the pre-trip inspections that I talked about throughout those trips. And a lot of times, those margins are so thin for them, and the requirements that these trucking companies put on them, that they're somewhat forced to bend those rules or break those rules and drive longer than they should be, which means that they're not paying the proper attention, they're not putting in the same type of rest that we would hope that they would, to keep all of us safe, which can obviously be very dangerous. Because driving a tractor trailer is very different than driving a car. It takes a lot of attention and it's not easy, and that's one of the things I learned actually from going to truck driving school was how difficult it can be and how exhausting it can be, 'cause you're constantly scanning the road around you to make sure that you know what's going on at all times, that you can keep everybody safe. And when companies force their drivers to violate those rules, it puts us all in danger.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Yeah, and why would a trucking company encourage their drivers or push their drivers to break some of these rules?

Ryan Skiver: 

The simple answer, unfortunately, is money, profits. They're putting their profits over people, over the safety of everyone in the roadways and the safety of their drivers. Basically, the faster they can get a load to the receiver, the faster they can get that driver on to pick up another load, so the more shipments they can get through, the more profit they can make. And unfortunately, sometimes that skews their perspective, and these trucking companies may somewhat require these truck drivers to violate those rules in order to keep their jobs, which just isn't fair. These truck drivers have hard enough jobs as it is, and when they're pushed to violate these rules because of these strict time limits of delivering things, it can really be detrimental not only to them, but all of us in the roadway.

Molly Hendrickson: 

So if an accident occurs because of one of these situations, somebody not following the rules completely, who is liable, is it the trucking company or is it the driver?

Ryan Skiver: 

Sure, it depends on the state that you're in. In Arizona, we have Pure Comparative Fault, which means that whoever is negligent or responsible for the crash, it could be multiple people, can all be held directly responsible. We have direct liability, so if the company was negligent in their training of the truck driver, they can be held responsible for that, if they were negligent in their supervision of the truck driver, they can be held responsible, and if they have that situation where maybe they're pushing that truck driver to go beyond those hours and violate those rules for more profit, you can even get to a punitive damage level. And then the same type of analysis obviously go to the truck driver and the decisions that they're making that result in the crash as well.

Molly Hendrickson: 

And as a lawyer, what is the process that you go through to uncover some of these violations if they happened?

Ryan Skiver: 

Sure, in our cases, we get into litigation, and part of that litigation process is what's called discovery, which is where we get to ask questions of the other side, so we can ask that defendant trucking company and that defendant driver for pieces of evidence that may help us to put the pieces of the puzzle together to really figure out who is at fault. We get things like the driver qualification file, the driver logs for hours of service, Qualcomm messages where the company is talking to the driver to find out if those types of things are present where they're pushing them to violate the safety rules and endangering all of us. That's why it's so important to have a lawyer that actually understands truck crash cases, so that they know what to look for and can actually put the case together to make sure that the responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.

Molly Hendrickson: 

Yeah, in a perfect world, everybody would just follow the rules. We appreciate your time today, Ryan.

Ryan Skiver: 

Thank you.

Molly Hendrickson: 

And that's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been lawyer Ryan Skiver. I wanna remind you, if you'd like to ask Ryan questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says "Ask a Lawyer", and it'll walk you through the very simple process. Thanks for watching. I'm Molly Hendrickson 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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