Trucker Fired For Refusing To Drive Unsafely Wins His Job Back

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Serah D.'s Comment
member avatar

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration sided with a truck driver who was fired for refusing to violate HOS regulations, helping him to win his job back and awarding him hundreds of thousands in back pay.

Driver Did Not Believe He Could Deliver Load Without Violating HOS Regulations

The incident took place in August 2012. According to the suit, NFI Interactive Logistics Inc. assigned a trucker a load of Poland Springs bottled water to take from Northborough to New Jersey. Because of flooding, storms, and crashes on his route, the truck driver did not believe that he could deliver the load in time without violating HOS regulations.

The truck driver made arrangements with the customer to drop off the bottled water at a closer facility in Kearny, New Jersey, and to have another company driver complete the run. NFI reportedly approved of this arrangement.

The next day, the trucker was fired for insubordination.

The driver filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA and finally won. OSHA ordered NFI to rehire the driver and to pay him $276,000 in back pay, damages, and legal fees.

Said one OSHA spokesperson: “The law is clear: Drivers have the right to raise legitimate safety concerns to their employer – including refusing to violate safety regulations – without fear of termination or other retaliation.”

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

From the years in this industry I can assure you this is another one of those stories that has a lot more to it than we'll ever find out. I mean, he was already in New Jersey. He could make it to Kearny but couldn't go where the load was delivering? Kearney is only 6.8 miles from Jersey City. Seriously.

Not only that, but there's a provision that says you can drive an extra two hours if you hit unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances, which he apparently did with the bad weather.

You wouldn't believe how often drivers supposedly run out of hours or how often a truck mysteriously breaks down when you give them a load to New Jersey. Like clockwork you would get messages from dispatch when you're in Pennsylvania:

"We have a driver who is [out of hours or broken down] about 100 miles from where he has to deliver. Can you go over there and complete the run for him?"

I wouldn't even have to look at the map to figure out roughly where he would be and I didn't even have to ask about the load to know it came from the midwest and the driver took it all the way to the PA/NJ border before mysteriously running out of hours or breaking down. Happened all the time. They'd milk all of the easy miles and pay out of a run and then pawn it off on someone else for the last difficult part. For years I watched drivers do that.

The driver in this story could make it to a customer in Kearny, one he surely already knew how to get to, but couldn't make it to the destination seven miles away? Of course he couldn't. Yeah right. It's only 7 miles from Kearny to Jersey City but he just happened to run out of hours when he got to a customer he knew how to get into.

I'd bet a million bucks he figured he could drop the load at a customer he knew well, spare himself the grief of trying to find the actual location it was supposed to go to, and grab a new load and get out of there.

Nobody runs out of hours 7 miles from the destination.

And think about it - he was fired for insubordination. So you tell me, was there a fight going on between this driver and dispatch or was this just some honest, hard working fellow getting screwed by The Man? I already know the answer to this but that's because I've watched these dramas play out for 25 years.

Don't believe everything you read. Rarely is it the whole story.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Ronny S.'s Comment
member avatar

I absolutely agree Brett! I don't know very much about the industry, but I'm no fool either. At first glance, reading this didn't sound like the full story. The only other reason I can think someone would do this kind of thing (calling OSHA in) is to try and shake things up with the HoS regulations and standards. I find it VERY interesting that it worked in the drivers favor honestly.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Drivers who have been in the industry for a little while can become very manipulative. They know the laws and regulations and they know how to play the right cards in order to hide behind those regulations to get their way.

For instance, you know as a driver that if you tell dispatch you don't feel safe to drive the truck they wouldn't dare try to force you to drive it. That's like a get out of jail free card. You take a 1,000 mile run, drive the 900 easiest miles, and then suddenly "become ill" and have to have someone else finish up the load for you. In the meantime you've made your money so you go get a nice meal, watch a movie or two, and a good night's sleep at the truck stop instead of having to find this place and sit around waiting to be unloaded. The next day you have fresh hours, you're assigned a new load, and off you go. You made your money, you got your sleep, you enjoyed some downtime, and saved yourself the grief of having to do the hard part of the run. Instead some other poor driver got suckered into doing that part for you.

Here's a great example of this kind of thing from a couple of years ago. This driver, "Abe", tried to tell dispatch he was too tired to drive. He had sat around for 20 hours doing nothing and said he couldn't sleep. When it was time to run he said he was too tired and unsafe to drive so someone else had to take his run.

Funny thing about this though - he worked for a company with guaranteed minimum pay. If you ran a minimum number of miles in a week you would get paid a certain salary which was quite a bit higher than the miles you actually ran. So if he was able to pawn this load off on another driver his pay would have worked out the same. Basically he would have gotten paid to sit around and do nothing.

Well he knew this wasn't going to fly with dispatch so he set them up. He got out the video camera and recorded the call so he could try to prove that dispatch was forcing him to drive when he was unfit, a Federal violation.

Here is the original conversation we had about it:

Told To Drive When You're Too Tired

Here's the last I heard about that guy:

Run Hard Get Paid: Not Anymore

That kind of stuff goes on all the time out there. There are a lot of hard working, safe, reliable drivers out there but there are also a lot of lazy, unreliable, manipulative jerks that will milk the system and take advantage of people every chance they get. When you've been in the industry long enough it's not difficult to recognize these situations, they're not uncommon.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Yeah, something fishy about that story. That area is in the heart of my territory. Numerous times my last store delivery in North Bergen or Kearny or Linden would almost always win me a ticket to Tropicana in Jersey City for a "juicy" backhaul to the DC. Call me crazy but I like running up there because the Walmart stores are all clustered in a 15 mile radius making it far easier to knock out a 5 stop reefer load relatively quick. I actually prefer it over running the I-95 corridor through Philly.

From Kearny in traffic it's 45 minutes tops to Jersey City and I have made that same trip in the snow more than once. Like Brett said there is way more to this story than what meets the eye.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Alex H.'s Comment
member avatar

Drivers who have been in the industry for a little while can become very manipulative. They know the laws and regulations and they know how to play the right cards in order to hide behind those regulations to get their way.

For instance, you know as a driver that if you tell dispatch you don't feel safe to drive the truck they wouldn't dare try to force you to drive it. That's like a get out of jail free card. You take a 1,000 mile run, drive the 900 easiest miles, and then suddenly "become ill" and have to have someone else finish up the load for you. In the meantime you've made your money so you go get a nice meal, watch a movie or two, and a good night's sleep at the truck stop instead of having to find this place and sit around waiting to be unloaded. The next day you have fresh hours, you're assigned a new load, and off you go. You made your money, you got your sleep, you enjoyed some downtime, and saved yourself the grief of having to do the hard part of the run. Instead some other poor driver got suckered into doing that part for you.

Here's a great example of this kind of thing from a couple of years ago. This driver, "Abe", tried to tell dispatch he was too tired to drive. He had sat around for 20 hours doing nothing and said he couldn't sleep. When it was time to run he said he was too tired and unsafe to drive so someone else had to take his run.

Funny thing about this though - he worked for a company with guaranteed minimum pay. If you ran a minimum number of miles in a week you would get paid a certain salary which was quite a bit higher than the miles you actually ran. So if he was able to pawn this load off on another driver his pay would have worked out the same. Basically he would have gotten paid to sit around and do nothing.

Well he knew this wasn't going to fly with dispatch so he set them up. He got out the video camera and recorded the call so he could try to prove that dispatch was forcing him to drive when he was unfit, a Federal violation.

Here is the original conversation we had about it:

Told To Drive When You're Too Tired

Here's the last I heard about that guy:

Run Hard Get Paid: Not Anymore

That kind of stuff goes on all the time out there. There are a lot of hard working, safe, reliable drivers out there but there are also a lot of lazy, unreliable, manipulative jerks that will milk the system and take advantage of people every chance they get. When you've been in the industry long enough it's not difficult to recognize these situations, they're not uncommon.

I remember hearing about that guy on CNN. Yes, he made it on CNN. At the time I thought it was terrible how the company was treating him. Had no idea of the backstory, though.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
I remember hearing about that guy on CNN. Yes, he made it on CNN. At the time I thought it was terrible how the company was treating him. Had no idea of the backstory, though.

Yeah, it's easy for a driver with a little experience to manipulate a situation and put out just the right information to make themselves look like a victim. I did a bunch of digging around when Abe first released that video and discovered quite a bit about what was going on. He was convincing for sure, especially if you're from outside the trucking world. But I've watched drivers manipulate the system for a long time. It's not difficult to spot after a while.

And when you do have really stand up drivers like Old School, Errol, G-Town, and many others here in the forum it's easy to see the stark contrast in the way they communicate compared with lower tier drivers. You never hear the guys I just mentioned slamming their company or complaining they can't get miles or playing the victim. Do circumstances work against them sometimes? Of course. Have they run into some lousy personalities? They certainly have. Did they hit bumps in the road, get short-changed, and wind up in messy situations due to no fault of their own? They certainly have.

But where's the cry babying? Where's the blame? Where's the finger pointing? Where is the jumping from company to company every three months? You don't see any of that stuff from the top tier drivers. They take a completely different approach with a completely different attitude than the rest.

So when a top tier driver sees someone like Abe videotaping a call to dispatch in order to garner all of the attention possible while trying to make others look bad for expecting him to do his job you know exactly the type of driver you're dealing with. You see it all the time out there.

It really does take a special type of person to be a top tier driver. The hard work, sacrifice, determination, and savvy it takes to consistently perform at a high level is not something most people possess, nor would they care to. You really have to go above and beyond what most people would be willing to do to thrive in this industry.

C. S.'s Comment
member avatar

We picked up a load from another driver once out of Knoxville headed to Oklahoma. When we got there the driver told us he was low on hours and couldn't make the delivery appointment, hence the relay. "That's odd," I thought to myself, "why would they assign him a load he couldn't make?" But stranger things have happened so I didn't think much of it.

Looking at the bills as we drove off, he had picked it up from a shipper about ten miles from the truck stop he was at, TWO DAYS before (that was the date he wrote next to his signature so I knew it wasn't a case of them printing the bills in advance). So he'd picked up a load, driven to the nearest truck stop and sat for two days, then realized he wasn't going to make it on time and told dispatch he was out of hours. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with there being a big music festival in Knoxville that weekend *eye roll*

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with there being a big music festival in Knoxville that weekend *eye roll*

See, that's exactly the kind of baloney the lower tier drivers pull all the time. The same ones who blast their company for not getting them any miles or getting them home on time even though "I'm doing everything right".

Yeah sure ya are.

smile.gif

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

OMG I despise LAZY drivers, despise them.

Brett wrote:

It really does take a special type of person to be a top tier driver. The hard work, sacrifice, determination, and savvy it takes to consistently perform at a high level is not something most people possess, nor would they care to. You really have to go above and beyond what most people would be willing to do to thrive in this industry

Commitment...its all about commitment. My job and objective is to make Swift money; performing my job safely, professionally, and efficiently with the least amount of intervention from driver management. I am 100% committed to that goal and more than willing to help others understand that same concept. Call it pride, call it work ethic, call it what ever you want, but I am paid to do just that, make my employer money. I do whatever it takes to accomplish that. I believe commitment or lack there-of, is the primary difference separating the "haves" and the "have-nots". Disagree if you want, that's cool, but I sincerely challenge anyone to disprove my theory.

Thanks for the props Brett.

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