Ken Shigley recently posted an entry on his trucking blog entitled  "Five common sense ideas for reducing the risk of truck driver fatigue." Ken has a lot of things right with this post but one thing I  believe is wrong is not asking for a 6th common sense reform, and that is simply to have drivers paid by the hour instead of by the mile.

Driving by the mile encourages drivers to push to make a few more dollars. Drivers are encouraged to push to exceed the hours of service requirements and push past the limits of safety. In fact trucking companies know this, government studies prove this, but companies still pay by the mile so that it is the driver that takes the risk of any slow down in on the highway due to construction or rush hour congestion. If the truck breaks down, the driver isn’t paid until the problem is fixed. 

Perhaps because courts have held drivers who are paid hourly are entitled to overtime (Bostain v. Food Express, Inc.—P3d—, 2007 WL 611259 (Wash March 1, 2007), the Washington Supreme Court held that interstate truck drivers are entitled to overtime compensation for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week) trucking companies don’t want to pay by the hour. Do you know that truck drivers have been exempted from the federal law that protects almost every other American worker from being overworked without fair pay, the Fair Labor Standards Act?

Paying by the mile also encourages speeding. After all, if you just go a bit faster you can travel more hours in your allotted number of driving hours and earn more money. Drivers also speed to make up the miles that were missed due to traffic, mechanical problems, or other delays.

If truck drivers were paid by the hour then the trucking company would assume the risk of any delay. The driver will get paid the same regardless so he is not given an incentive to speed or drive over his hours of service. Until the trucking industry faces this fact drivers will both continue to speed and drive past their hours of service. The wrecks due to speed and fatigue that could easily be prevented will continue, leading to more tragedies on our roads.