Port trucking companies that require drivers to work reckless amounts of overtime are putting truckers and the public at risk, according to a USA Today Network investigative report.
To conduct the research, reporters tracked thousands of Los Angeles-area trucks over a four-year period, using timestamps generated each time a driver passed through a port gate. A calculation was then made regarding how long each truck had been in operation and the results were compared to federal crash data compiled between 2013 and 2016.
The USA Today study found that trucks serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach drove without the required break an average of 470 times per day, and those trucks were involved in a minimum of 189 collisions within a day of extended time on the road.
Federal Rules Require Breaks
Federal law requires that commercial truckers take a 10-hour break every 14 hours. Police and Department of Transportation inspectors often rely on paper logs maintained by the drivers themselves to track how long they’ve been on the road. The first federal directive requiring the installation of electronic log machines in commercial trucks became effective in December 2017, but it is unknown how quickly trucking companies will comply with the new requirements.
Truckers often feel compelled to work long hours. In June 2017, USA TODAY reported that California port truckers were being forced to work long days against their will to pay off debt incurred when they bought trucks through company-sponsored lease-to-own programs. Stuck in jobs that sometimes paid pennies per hour after expenses, if drivers complained or refused to work longer than the legal limit, they risked being fired and losing their truck, along with all the money they’d paid toward its purchase.