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Truck Driver Pay May Affect Trucking Accident Rates

According to The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), truck drivers spend, on average, 44 hours in their cabs when their trucks are not moving. Drivers remain with their trucks while the trucks are loaded, unloaded, transported by ferry, serviced, and so forth. However, many companies only pay their drivers by miles driven. This means that drivers who are paid in this way spend an average of 44 hours per week not being paid.

According to trucking industry experts, this method of paying drivers sets a dangerous precedent. Drivers need to drive in order to make deadlines and in order to get paid. If drivers are not paid for 44 hours on the job (or the equivalent of more than a full workweek), they must work extra hard in order to earn a living wage. According to experts, this way of paying drivers encourages them to speed, as drivers strive to make up their unpaid hours with some paid hours.

Most drivers earn $38,000 – $50,000 per year and must spend considerable time in a truck, away from their families. A pay structure based on hours driven depletes the quality of life for drivers – who must spend hours more on the road to make their wages – and encourages drivers to speed in order to make more money.

Advocacy groups such as Road Safe America as well as other organizations believe that drivers should be paid for all driving-related work, not just for hours driven. Experts claim that this will discourage drivers from speeding. In addition, it may discourage drivers from driving while exhausted. This, in turn, can help prevent the fatalities and serious personal injuries caused by trucking accidents.

Under current pay-only-for-distance-driven schemes, drivers who fall behind due to truck maintenance or delays in unloading or loading may be tempted to drive longer distances in order to get paid. After all, if they do not, they will not make up the money lost idling. Under a fairer wage system, which would see drivers paid by the hour for all driving-related work, drivers would not feel the same pressure to “make up” time and wages by speeding or by driving when tired, experts assert.

Some trucking companies already do this, and pay drivers a fair hourly wage. These companies do not evaluate driver efficiency just by distance traveled. This sort of system tends to mean more satisfied drivers and safer roads, advocates claim.