DOT to Study Connection Between Safety and Driver Pay

By Roy Maurer Sep 4, 2014

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to survey trucking companies on the relationship between driver compensation and safety behind the wheel, the agency announced Aug. 29, 2014, in the Federal Register.

“Should the study show that there is a relationship between the methods drivers are paid and the methods’ effect on safe-driving performance, a potential benefit of the study will be to provide carrier companies with information that will help them make more informed decisions about safe operations,” the FMCSA said.

The online questionnaire will be sent to a random sampling of about 2,200 safety and operations managers and independent owner-operators.

The agency said it will also look at other “potential confounding variables” including out-of-service and crash rates, size and type of carrier operation, average length of hauls, commodities carried, and driving experience.

The results of the study will be made available to the public in 2015.

Economic Pressure to Drive Tired

Many truck and bus drivers are compensated by the mile or on a fixed rate per load. As a result, they are not paid for extended periods of time spent on the clock when they are waiting for shipments to be loaded or unloaded at shipping and receiving facilities.

The FMCSA has voiced concern that drivers who are not paid for the time they wait feel pressure to speed or drive beyond the hours of service rules as a matter of economic necessity.

“One of our biggest agency goals is to address driver compensation,” said former FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro. “It is essential to recognize that professional drivers should be compensated for all time on duty. That’s integral to achieving the overall safety mission,” she told a congressional committee in July.

“The prospect of drivers waiting long periods to have their trailers loaded or unloaded at shipping and receiving facilities is becoming more the norm rather than the exception,” remarked William Dawson, a driver for United Parcel Service and a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “The longer they wait, the more time they lose in on-duty time, which can then affect the time they have left to drive. Drivers then feel pressured to drive beyond their hours-of-service limits, risking highway safety by driving fatigued.”

A 2011 Government Accountability Office study found that about 80 percent of the drivers who were detained during loading and unloading indicated that detention time impacted their ability to comply with hours-of-service regulations.

The Obama administration proposed requiring carriers to pay drivers at least the federal minimum wage for time spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded. That bill is pending.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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