Fired For Accident And Not Sure What To Do.

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Ian G.'s Comment
member avatar

Let me start by saying a huge thank you to Brett and all the moderators on this website. I’ve been lurking here for a few years now and I can tell this is by far the best trucking site.

Four months ago I was terminated for having an accident that was deemed preventable. Basically, the company made me drive while fatigued and I rear ended someone. I got a ticket for Failure to Reduce Speed which was dismissed in court. I have spent the past few months unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the “preventable” ruling and subsequent termination in an attempt to get rehired.

I don’t want to name the company here because they probably monitor this website and will read this post. They know who I am. I’m not trying to hide anything from them, but I don’t want them to accuse me of libel either. If you think you know the company’s name, please don’t post it here. The manager who told me I was fired also said I was permanently ineligible for rehire, but one of their recruiters said I might be considered for rehire once I had some safe driving experience. I’m not sure which of them to believe. I do want to go back to the same company because despite their issues, they seem to have the most progressive attitude toward safety, and also a unique home time option.

Now I have gotten to the stage of applying for other jobs. I filled out the application on this website and it returned five results. One was actually the company that fired me, and I had to rule out three others for various reasons. The remaining company’s recruiter said she could not hire someone who was terminated for an accident, but they are reviewing that policy and would contact me again if it changes.

I feel ambivalent about going back into the trucking industry at all. The company that fired me is a large one that prides itself on being one of the safest in the nation. There were so many safety issues there, some of which contributed to the accident, that I’m afraid of finding out what a less safe company could be like. I also would not be able to accept a “standard” OTR job with minimal home time. But I know my options are already limited, so I will probably end up leaving the industry.

If it matters, I live in the Chicago area.

So, my questions are: Would any reasonably safe companies that offer average or better home time be able to hire me, or would I have to work for some sketchy small company, if at all? What are the odds of getting rehired at the original company with 1 year accident-free? What are the odds they’d rehire me with any amount of experience? Is there anything else I could attempt to get my job back before I send applications anywhere else? Given that the employer did more to cause the accident than I did, could an attorney be of any help? If I don’t go back to trucking, what other jobs still exist that pay a living wage and don’t require a lengthy training period?

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Big T's Comment
member avatar

You chose to drive while fatigued, but the company caused the accident? The buck stops with you. No company can force you to drive fatigued. You made a poor choice and ended up having a major accident by industry standards. Until you realize that and come to grips with that your chances are not real great.

If you want to stay in the industry then take what you can get and get another year of safe driving. At that point you may have more options.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Grumpy Old Man's Comment
member avatar

You chose to drive while fatigued, but the company caused the accident? The buck stops with you. No company can force you to drive fatigued. You made a poor choice and ended up having a major accident by industry standards. Until you realize that and come to grips with that your chances are not real great.

If you want to stay in the industry then take what you can get and get another year of safe driving. At that point you may have more options.

I always thought companies advertising that you are the final say in whether it is safe to drive or not we’re just good companies, until I found out it is the law and whistle blowers are protected by law.

You are the captain of your ship. You decide if it is safe or not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

In my mind, there's not really enough info provided for me to make any kind of judgement on you or the company's share of blame, but ultimately, the driver is responsible to determine if they are too fatigued to operate safely. You as the driver, could have just refused to drive due to not feeling safe to drive,,, would they be upset? Maybe, but that would have been a better outcome. That being said, I wish you the best in figuring out what to do from here. You need to decide what your level of commitment is as far as staying in trucking, while keeping in mind that if you do, you may need to go with a company without the amount of home time you desire till you can accumulate more accident free time. Wish you the best in whatever you decide.

Brian's Comment
member avatar

Agree with Big t and Grump. Now if anything I guess it does help that you are from Chicago. As am I, there are definitely no shortage of a variety of jobs out here. Linehaul MIGHT be a possibility for you but I'm honestly not sure with that accident. Bobcat can probably touch on that. You'll be able to find something you are just going to have to do the research.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.
Grumpy Old Man's Comment
member avatar

In my mind, there's not really enough info provided for me to make any kind of judgement on you or the company's share of blame, but ultimately, the driver is responsible to determine if they are too fatigued to operate safely. You as the driver, could have just refused to drive due to not feeling safe to drive,,, would they be upset? Maybe, but that would have been a better outcome. That being said, I wish you the best in figuring out what to do from here. You need to decide what your level of commitment is as far as staying in trucking, while keeping in mind that if you do, you may need to go with a company without the amount of home time you desire till you can accumulate more accident free time. Wish you the best in whatever you decide.

I’m not judging. I have zero experience, I have no right to judge anyone.

I simply meant to educate those who may not know that you can’t be forced to do anything unsafe or illegal.

Ian may not have known he had the right to refuse to go further without sleep.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Keith A.'s Comment
member avatar

If you want to keep trucking you're going to have to start from the bottom. Find any company that will hire you, cooperate with them, bust your ass, and put in a solid year. Then you can start looking around again.

Bobcat_Bob's Comment
member avatar

I'm in Chicago too you may as well try applying to any LTL companies if you are interested in that work. Unfortunately most if not all prefer accident free, especially considering this was you rear ending someone while "fatigued" imo the will view "fatigued" as meaning asleep or clowning enough to be unsafe.

If you want I can post a list of LTL companies in the Chicago area that you may as well apply too. Hopefully they will call you and hear a explanation.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier
Turtle's Comment
member avatar

Ian, I think first you must own up to the fact that the accident was indeed preventable and your fault. Fatigued or not, nobody or no company can make you do anything. As a professional driver, the responsibility of safety falls squarely on your shoulders. Always. Period. End of story.

Accidents happen. We all know that and won't judge you for it. But be assured you'll find little sympathy here if you try to blame the company. If you truly felt unsafe, then the only answer was to park that truck, regardless of what the company said. It's not worth killing somebody. With that being said:

Should you have been rested before beginning your trip? Did the company have a reasonable expectation that you'd be ready to go? You've given no details on how the company "made me drive while fatigued". One can only assume you said you were tired, and they said something like "gee we really need this load to get there". Is that the case?

There were so many safety issues there, some of which contributed to the accident...
Given that the employer did more to cause the accident than I did, could an attorney be of any help?

I'm sorry, but if this were truly the case, why in hell would you want to continue with that company?

Something isn't adding up here. Until you face some hard facts you may find it difficult to reach a solution.

Yes some other company will hire you, but perhaps not before you can take some responsibility for your accident.

Ian G.'s Comment
member avatar

You chose to drive while fatigued, but the company caused the accident? The buck stops with you. No company can force you to drive fatigued. You made a poor choice and ended up having a major accident by industry standards. Until you realize that and come to grips with that your chances are not real great.

If you want to stay in the industry then take what you can get and get another year of safe driving. At that point you may have more options.

I did a lot of research on the issue of driver fatigue as a result of this, and came to the conclusion that it is a greatly misunderstood issue. "Fatigue" is defined as an abnormal lack of physical or mental energy. The most common causes are sleep deprivation, stress, and having an erratic sleep schedule. The first two were relevant to the accident. Many of the symptoms of fatigue are not immediately recognizable as such: sleepiness, physical weakness, boredom or low motivation, irritability, difficulty concentrating or remembering, poor decision making, and increased reaction time. One also has to consider that fatigue may impair the ability to identify fatigue, in a similar manner to a drunk person believing they are not too drunk to drive.

The topic of fatigue was only mentioned once during company training. The conversation used the terms "fatigued", "tired", and "drowsy" interchangeably, which I found out too late is not correct. I incorrectly believed that "don't drive while fatigued" meant "don't drive if you feel sleepy". On the day of the accident, I did not feel drowsy at all, so there was nothing to indicate that I shouldn't have gotten behind the wheel. I did not make a deliberate choice to do anything unsafe.

At a superficial level, I agree that the accident would have been prevented if I had been able to react sooner, so it meets the basic definition of a preventable accident. The reason I say the company should take some of the blame is that they misinformed me on how to identify and prevent fatigue, then took actions that caused me to be fatigued. I'll explain in more detail in the next post.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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