Whistleblower Truck Driver Receives Lost Wages and Punitive Damages Pay-Out After Refusal to Haul Allegedly Unsafe Loads
At The Truck Accident Team, we realize and recognize that truck drivers can also be victims. While the attempts to paint a one-sided portrait of truck drivers as unsafe, callous individuals who engage in unsafe practices and cause injuries to other drivers for their own gain sometimes gain traction after a serious accident, the truth is typically more complex and nuanced. Typically, it is not the driver who is deriving the benefit, but rather the trucking company. The driver may feel that he or she has no option but to engage in the unsafe or potentially unsafe practice if he or she wishes to keep his or her job.
Trucker Refused to Haul Two Overweight Loads and Three Other Loads When in Violation of Hours of Service Rules
Brandon Hopper claims he was “confronted and baited” to resign from his job as a commercial driver for one of the nation’s largest commercial trucking companies. He states that these attempts to secure his resignation or grounds for firing were precipitated by his refusal to take actions that were in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules and regulations. Hopper claims that he was asked by the company to haul two loads that were in excess of weight limits. In three other instances, Hopper claims that he would have been in violation of hours of service rules that restrict when and for how long a driver can be on-duty operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Marten Transportation, Hopper’s employer, claims that safety considerations played no role in Hopper’s dismissal. Rather, the company claims that Hopper’s end of his employment relationship with the company was based on a pattern of poor work performance. The poor performance included missed load assignments. The company states that the cessation of the employment relationship was of Hopper’s initiation after he was reassigned to a region that he found less favorable.
Hopper was awarded $50,000 in lost pay and $50,000 in punitive damages by the Department of Labor Administrative Judge Christine Kirby. The Administrative law judge ruled that Hopper’s dismissal was prohibited by federal law. Marten has stated that it believes the decision was in error and the company plans to appeal.
Truck Drivers Have Whistleblower Protections
Under federal law, truck drivers are provided certain whistleblower protections. These drivers are covered under e Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), 49 U.S.C. §31105, have certain rights to refuse work and are protected against adverse employment actions. Qualifying drivers typically operate a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, transport 10 or more passengers, or transport hazardous materials. Protected actions under STAA include:
- A truck driver’s cooperation with many federal safety investigations.
- A truck driver who complains about a violation of FMVSS safety rules.
- A commercial driver who provides information to a law enforcement investigation stemming from an accident causing death or property damage.
Protections for these drivers include but are not limited to blacklisting, firing, demotion, threats, intimidation, reassignment, or reduction in pay or hours.
What are Other Scenarios Where the Truck Driver Is the Victim of Unsafe Practices?
Truck drivers face challenges and should act as partners with other motorists in improving highway and roadway safety. Other scenarios where a truck driver may be a victim of unsafe company practices or procedures include:
- A driver who is not made aware of known safety problems with his truck, bus, or other commercial vehicles.
- A driver who is injured by unsafe cargo securement practices.
- A truck driver who drives a truck was insufficient, improper, or unsafe repairs or modifications were made without his or her knowledge.
- A truck driver who drives a truck where the company or other third parties have committed fraud on the maintenance logs.
The above scenarios can cause serious bodily injury to both the truck driver and other motorists. In these situations, the truck driver is just as much of a victim as any other driver of a car or truck who is also injured in the accident.
Truck Drivers Can Be Victims in Highway Accidents
The lawyers of The Truck Accident Team recognize and understand that truck drivers can also suffer serious injuries when trucking companies are negligent or push for the driver to take unsafe actions. In some cases, the injury is the loss of a job when the driver refuses to engage in dangerous practices. However, in other cases, the driver can suffer serious, life-altering injuries, or even death as the result of unsafe trucking practices. These practices often not only cause injury to the driver, but also other motorists.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a commercial trucking accident or by unsafe practices due to the actions of a manager or other company supervisor, call the injury lawyers of the Truck Accident Team today at (215) 246-9000 to schedule a free consultation.