Is Your Trucking Fleet Treating You Fairly?
Be wary of “lease to own” schemes, a more appropriate term might be “indentured slavery.”
The majority of trucking firms are on the up and up, and want to take care of their drivers. Walmart, for instance, may not pay its cashiers very well, but they pay their drivers up to $90,000 a year. After all, if not for the drivers, they would not be able to deliver the goods and collect the transport fees. However, there are unscrupulous fleet owners who abuse the trust and respect the driver gives them.
Some crooked trucking fleets are charging truckers $300 to $500 a week to lease a vehicle. Some use the immigrant driver’s lack of knowledge of the English language, particularly the written word, against them in contracts.
In addition to the lease fee, there are charges for maintenance, fuel, insurance, parking, and others. Many drivers wind up taking home far less than minimum wage, especially when you consider the hours in the truck on the road.
Some trucking companies call it “lease to own,” but a more appropriate term would be “indentured slavery.”
Is the system rigged in favor of the trucking fleets and against the drivers?
In many cases, it would seem to be the drivers are at the mercy of the trucking fleets and the system. Think about it. Why are these trucking fleets charging the driver maintenance on trucks they are leasing from the company?
Let’s take a look at an average trucker’s “lease to own” charges versus earnings.
Say the driver “earns” $1000 in a week, subtract the $125 insurance, $300 lease, $100 maintenance fee, and another $300 for diesel, what’s left? What’s left is $175, far below the minimum wage for even a forty-hour workweek ($4.38 per hour).
You could make more flipping burgers at a fast-food joint and go home every night. Plus, these drivers are putting in way more than 40 hours and too many nights in their sleepers.
What is not apparent in those figures are times when a trucker is out on the road and spends two or three days waiting for a load. They could wind up owing fleet management because they only earn while they’re actually driving, with most drivers making 25 to 40 cents per mile.
Too many broken promises and dreams derailed.
After a few months and too many broken promises, the driver gets a lawyer and sues the trucking fleet. Part of the untold story for many of these truckers is overweight loads, traffic jams, being forced to speed to make delivery deadlines, and violations at roadside inspections.
There is a possible $2,125 fine for driving more than eight hours without a 30-minute break or more than 11 hours in a day. A wrong route or outdated map can mean a $4,175 fine for a driver hauling hazardous cargo. It’s also a misdemeanor crime. There are nearly 360 violations classified as misdemeanor crimes.
Some firms take care of trucking tickets; many do not. This driver had a judgment for an overweight truck amounting to $3,500, which the company told him not to worry about because they would handle it.
The trial date came and went, and now there is a failure to appear (FTA) as well. According to CA Vehicle Code 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear, the ticketed driver who willingly doesn’t appear in court “is guilty of a misdemeanor.” Now the driver who got told “don’t worry about it,” has a criminal record. Plus, there was a $300 administrative fee added to the ticket, and they’re no closer to owning their own truck.
Can the driver get a new driving gig with a misdemeanor violation? It’s doubtful. Most firms will take one look at their Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) record and put it on the reject pile.
The average fine for a truck that is overweight by more than a 1000 pounds is $1.00 per pound in Cali. Although that doesn’t seem like much, we’re talking about thousands of pounds usually. What’s more, if your truck, which is often loaded by someone else, is more than 4,501 pounds overweight, you face a criminal record if convicted.
The court orders back pay for the drivers.
The court ordered the fleet to pay the drivers back pay and wages, amounting to $8,700,000. A total of $370,000 each most never received.
However, the company jettisoned the company name, its debts, and liabilities, and started a business under a new name. Although the truckers never got paid, the company is back on the road, using many of those same trucks those drivers had leased to own.
What’s more, many of the same shipping companies are still working with them, knowing what they did to their former drivers who will probably never see a dime of their court-ordered back pay.
The rich get richer while the poor worker gets screwed over!
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Stephen Dalton is a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a Certified US English Chicago Manual of Style Editor. He is a freelance journalist currently living in the Philippines.