A large portion of the trucking industry is paid by the mile rather than by the hour. Truck drivers work nearly twice the hours in a normal workweek, for less pay than similar industries. As a result of their pay structure and because they are not paid for all hours worked, there is an incentive to drive longer and faster in order to increase their earnings. Paying truck drivers for every hour worked will promote safer trucking by removing incentives to dangerous driving behaviors.

Truck Driver Health and Safety and Compensation Structures

Truck driving is dangerous for truck drivers as well as the driving public. Truck driving is consistently listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs, and constantly ranks among the deadliest jobs. Due to the nature of the job and exposure to diesel exhaust, whole body vibration, excessive noise, constant shift changes, and roadway dangers, some studies estimate that truck driving can shorten a person’s life by more than ten years.  Additionally, truck drivers face a high health risk for: personal injury, high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, cancer, liver, kidney, bowl and bladder issues, sleep abnormalities and hearing loss, among other diseases and physical injuries.

Truck drivers are being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. The demands of the job, force truck drivers to spend up to 70 hours a week behind the wheel, and then work additional hours, for less pay than similar industries. As a result of their pay structure, being paid by the mile or the job rather than by the hour, they are incentivized to drive longer and faster in order to make more money at the expense of their own personal safety, as well as everyone with whom they share the roads.

The current regulation does not sufficiently protect these drivers, who should be afforded the same respect as other workers, work reasonable hours, and be permitted to have sleep patterns that are in accord with normal human needs. Given these factors, it should not come as a surprise that the poor working conditions and low pay perpetuate the extremely high rate of truck driver turnover, which is above 90 percent.

The compensation structure for truck drivers, in which drivers are paid by the job or by the mile, incentivizes drivers to drive long and fast in order to make a living. Truck drivers are not paid for time spent in detention, in traffic, or time spent attending to maintenance repairs. In short, to repeat a well know truck driving slogan “only turning wheels are earning wheels.”

Congress should mandate a study of what would need to be done to address the exemption to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) including consideration of making piecemeal pay illegal and eliminating the overtime exemption. The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

The Truck Safety Coalition supports efforts to improve working conditions of truck drivers, including increasing the availability of rest areas, adding detention time pay, and ensuring health and wellness education.