With the recent Tracy Morgan car accident, media attention all over the country has been directed to the truck driver and his condition during the collision. While most of these news stories will be quick to spin the story, the truth is that the driver’s condition was strongly affected by his working environment.
The Truck Driver Involved in the Tracy Morgan Accident
On June 7, 2014, Tracy Morgan and a few of his fellow comedians and friends, were driving in a Mercedes Sprinter limousine bus through New Jersey. Just after one AM on that Saturday morning, the limousine that was carrying the group was struck by a tractor trailer that was operated by a Walmart employee, Kevin Roper. This resulted in a six car pileup and heavy damage done to all vehicles involved in the accident. The group was driving from a previous engagement at Dover, Delaware, as a part of the comedian’s stand up comedy tour. The force of the crash ended up killing James McNair, one of Tracy Morgan’s friends, and placing the other passengers in critical condition, including Tracy Morgan. He was later taken to a Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where doctors could monitor his condition and give him the necessary help that he needs. Since his stay at the hospital, he has begun to improve after surgery was performed on his broken leg.
The Walmart transport truck driver, Kevin Roper from Georgia, was then arrested and taken to court, where the rest of the situation could unfold. He pleaded not guilty to four counts of assault by auto and one count of death by auto. Roper explains that he dozed off and ended up hitting the limousine in order to avoid the traffic ahead of him. He swerved as a last minute resort, and it ended up causing the accident. While all of these corroborations were documented in the court case, the media has since put their own spin on the situation, which ended up distorting the truth and providing the public with an inaccurate retelling of the events.
In the news report, the case states that Kevin Roper was speeding while he was driving the vehicle, and other news sources have tried to paint the story as if the collision was intentional. Walmart has stated that their trucks are equipped with devices that limit the maximum speed to sixty five miles per hour. Additionally, criminal complaints filed against the truck driver have stated that he had not slept in over twenty four hours, which was the basis for the crash. However, as quickly as the media was to jump on this allegation, the truth is that there is no proof that he had been driving for so long.
All Walmart trucks are designed with the highest safety standards in mind, and they use electronic logging devices that can track the hours of each of their drivers. These elogs allow for the company to have more control over their trucks. Additionally, federal regulations are designed that can allow truck drivers to work upwards of fourteen hours a day, though only eleven of those hours are allowed behind the wheel. The media has stated that Kevin Roper was behind the wheel of his truck for thirteen hours, which is impossible because of the eleven hour limit. However, while these regulations exist in order to maximize driver and product safety, there are still many issues within the trucking industry that result in the truck driver’s health deteriorating. This competitive and unhealthy environment promotes wage theft, which ends up putting more of a strain on the trucker as he or she struggles to make the most of their financial situation.
Safety in the Trucking Industry
While many people are not aware of it, wage theft is rampant in the trucking industry, as truck drivers are forced to work long hours because of the way they are paid. Though many different American industries may experience such thefts for any variety of reasons, there are few fields where the wage theft is as rampant as in trucking. In order to understand how such problems occur in the trucking industry, it is important to understand the trucking situation and what is expected from each truck driver before they take on a task.
Truck drivers are paid according to a system known as mileage pay. What this means is that truckers are only paid when they are on the road and driving, and not when they are loading, unloading, or waiting for load orders. The average standard of payment in the industry is roughly thirty five cents every mile, with some companies offering to pay as high as forty five cents. On top of that truckers only get paid post office to post office miles. Post office miles is a straight line from post office to office, have you ever been able to drive in a straight line? So truckers get screwed on 10% of the actual miles driven for each load.
This is where the wage theft comes in. There are many things that truck drivers are forced to do for free because they are not paid for such activities. Truck drivers are forced to inspect their vehicles before and after every trip, fuelling them, waiting for breakdowns to be repaired, and load and unload their vehicles. All of these activities go unpaid!, and there have been recorded instances where working truckers have waited for loads for as long as ten hours, with little or no compensations made for the time.
Imagine that you wake up and get started on your work day. After a fifteen minute inspection, for which you are not compensated, you will drive one hour to the location where you need to get your truck loaded. You have no information on when your truck loading will be complete, and your boss asks you to log off duty while you are waiting to get on the road again. You are forced to stay awake for any number of hours with no pay. In some situations, you may have to wait ten hours just to be ready to get on the road again, and then you will be ready to work the remaining hours once your truck is loaded. However, you had just spent half of the day wide awake and are now feeling sleepy. You will need to perform the rest of the load’s transport without any sleep, just so that you can receive actual compensation for your work. If you refuse to take the load, the company can stamp your record with a “service failure” which will end up hurting your career in the long run. On average most truck driver work an additional 20 hours a week for free.
While this is no justification for Kevin Roper’s situation, it is important for people to keep these facts in mind so that they can understand the truth about the trucking industry. Truckers need to be paid overtime by the hour, though they can spend upwards of seventy hours by their vehicles without having any overtime pay. Many individuals think that regulations will result in more safety, but the truth is that better pay and working conditions for truck drivers are the only things that can keep the roads safe!
Additionally, many people are not aware that truck collisions result more often in the fault of other cars around the truck driver, than the truck itself. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey observed that of ten thousand fatalities that had occurred, the cars were at fault at an average of eighty three percent. Additionally, records showed that car drivers were more likely to engage in multiple unsafe acts on the highway, where thirty six percent of car drivers will be cited, compared to only ten percent of truck drivers. It is crucial to be informed when such situations arise, and to not let the media paint only one side of a complicated story.