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The Connection Between Wages and Commercial Trucking Accidents

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. In 2015, 745 truck drivers were fatally injured on the roadways, and a total of 3,852 passenger vehicle occupants, truck occupants, and pedestrians/others died in large truck crashes that year. Understanding the primary causes of truck accidents and changing risk factors could save lives. Wage management changes may contribute to better truck safety on the roadways.

The Realities of Working in the Truck Industry

In the United States, the average annual pay for truck driving is $43,464. Some drivers make more and some make less. While the pay isn’t exceptional, the method of pay is what makes the work so unappealing. Most drivers do not receive pay for every hour they spend in a truck or performing duties associated with the work. Instead, they make between $0.28 and $0.45 per mile they drive. Employers may expect their drivers to meet a mileage quota of up to 3,000 miles per week and drive up to the current regulatory limits for maximum consecutive hours driven.

Ideally, the pay per mile model would accurately reflect the amount of work a truck driver does per day. In reality, truck drivers may sit in congested traffic areas and work zones, only travel a few miles per hour, and receive barely any compensation for their efforts. If you talk to some in the industry, they will even admit off the record to keeping separate logs – one that meets regulatory requirements for time and mileage while the other shows actual working times.

Regulations were designed to improve safety, but they may not make the industry as safe as lawmakers expected. Without employer expectation changes, drivers continue to cut corners to meet deadlines and receive adequate pay.

Connecting Pay, Morale, and Trucker Performance

One study conducted by the National Survey of Long Haul Truck Drivers in late 2015 evaluated long-haul truck driving safety. The research included accident data and driver feedback. Results indicated that a little over a third of drivers had experienced a minimum of one crash while working. Almost 25% reported a minimum of one near miss in the week prior to giving feedback. Around 73% of the drivers believe their delivery schedule timeframes were unrealistic, and 37% admitted to regulatory noncompliance. Still other survey results indicated industry problems with poor training and inadequate employer-driven safety management.

An older study from 2006 published in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review shows a positive correlation between increased pay and a reduction in crash incidences. The studies align with principles organizational psychologists have recognized for years. Compensation and treatment affect performance, job satisfaction, and safety across every industry. Employees who feel valued and receive fair wages perform consistently at higher levels than those who feel undervalued and unsupported.

To combat the increased safety risks associated with pay and poor management, companies can take a variety of approaches. Straight hourly pay, circumstantial pay (detention pay, layover pay, etc.), and other payment structures can give truck drivers fairer compensation for the time they dedicate to the job. In addition to improved compensation practices, employers who support their drivers through financial and non-financial incentives may also effectively decrease truck accident rates.

Unfair Pay May Increase Other Crash Risk Factors

Pay is one primary cause of trucking incidents. Drivers who feel dissatisfied with the compensation structure are more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors. They may drive while fatigued, speed to make up mileage, and fail to adhere to other safety standards. Some drivers may feel they have no choice but to push themselves to the limit.

Regulatory requirements may only go so far to enact meaningful changes on the roadways. For truckers to change their unsafe behaviors, employers may need to alter compensation practices and provide more meaningful support to drivers.

If you are injured in an accident with a commercial truck, contact the experienced team at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case. Contact them today in Riverside for a free consultation! 951-543-9020

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