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The 2015 Labor Day Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Drunk Driving Campaign Has Begun

August 27th, 2015 by admin

In Indiana and Illinois, along with the rest of the country, state and local law enforcement agencies are working together with federal authorities to fight against drunk driving accidents over the upcoming holiday — and the crack down has already begun.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign began on August 21, 2015, and continues through September 7, 2015. Police will be targeting drivers who are operating cars, trucks, SUVs, as well as commercial vehicles like big rig semi trucks and 18 wheelers for drivers who are operating their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. Anyone with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher will be arrested for driving drunk (.08 is considered legally intoxicated in Indiana and Illinois).

According to NHTSA studies, drunk driving accidents are responsible for 31% of all deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes in the United States, and 68% of those drunk driving accidents had at least one driver with a BAC of .15% or higher. That’s two times more than what Indiana and Illinois define as driving drunk under the law.

This coordinated effort between federal, state, and local authorities is designed to pull drivers over and arrest those who are found to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

It’s a criminal effort, and arrests will be made.

However, for those accidents where people are seriously hurt or killed in a drunk driving accident, the criminal justice system will not provide the only avenue for justice against that drunk driver. Personal injury claims and wrongful death cases under state laws are of vital importance to accident victims and their families. It is through personal injury law that families are able to obtain relief for the realities of things like lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, pain and suffering, long term medical needs including therapy and rehabilitation, and more.

Promoting awareness of the dangers of drunk driving – especially over a holiday time period – will save lives. However, the truth is that too many people will still get behind the wheel thinking that they’re fine to drive and accidents will happen.

Over the next few weeks, it’s important that drivers in Indiana and Illinois be aware not just of the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign — but of the increased risk of a drunk driving accident during this time peroid. The danger of being involved in an accident with a drunk driver is especially high at night (between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am) and over the holiday weekend itself (i.e., the three-day Labor Day weekend).

“Targeted enforcement campaigns are an essential element in our strategy to save lives and reduce crashes, and they have helped sharply reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “But too many drivers continue to risk their lives and the lives of others by getting behind the wheel drunk. Our message is clear: drive sober, or get pulled over.”

From Indiana’s Criminal Justice Institute, here are some tips for staying safe during the Labor Day Weekend:

  • Plan a safe way home before you start the Labor Day festivities;
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver.
  • If you’re drunk, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Use your community’s sober ride program.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement immediately.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while drunk, be a friend and take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

Driving More in 2015: Traffic Numbers Hit Record High This Year

August 25th, 2015 by admin

This month, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) released its latest tally of motor vehicle traffic in the United States, and its new data reveals Americans are driving more than ever before. In fact, so far this year, U.S. drivers have driven over double the number of miles driven during the comparison year 1981 — and we’ve already passed the 1.54 trillion mile marker in 2015.

You can read all the details about this record in U.S. traffic and Americans driving on our roads in the FHA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report (published online for free download). Another report to consider with this information: a Department of Transportation report (”Beyond Traffic”) that estimates we will see a 43% jump in commercial truck traffic in the next 30 years.

As an example of how there’s more traffic to deal with here in our part of the country, according to the FHA report, Indiana saw a jump of 3% in traffic on rural roads in one month’s time (June 2014 compared to June 2015).

What does this mean for drivers in Indiana and Illinois?

Well, for one thing more drivers and more traffic mean the greater likelihood for motor vehicle traffic accidents of all kinds: truck crashes, pedestrian accidents, car crashes, motorcycle accidents, etc. Just increasing the amount of traffic means increasing the risk of accidents – and that’s before things like drunk driving or driving with distractions gets included as risk factors.

Road Conditions and Road Maintenance – Is It Keeping Up With All This Traffic?

However, given that the new federal report has traffic increasing for the 16th month in a row, there’s another real concern: road hazards and the infrastructure that exists for all these vehicles. Are state roads and interstate highway systems keeping up with this big increase in roadway use?

Road hazards and problems with roads and highways themselves can cause accidents and serious personal injuries just like driver error, speeding, drunk driving, and other commonly recognized causes of crashes. Things like the following are just a few examples of how the road surfaces themselves can contribute to accidents as the following are known causes of crashes:

  • potholes,
  • shoulder drop-offs,
  • uneven road surfaces caused by lack of care and heavy traffic (wheel ruts), and
  • slippery surfaces due to oil collected on a poorly maintained road surfaces.

This year, Congress passed a short-term budget bill and lawmakers will return to consider roadway budgeting issues in the fall. Funding highway infrastructure at both the federal and state levels is a continuing debate on how much money is to be spent and where funds should go.

In the meantime, drivers in Indiana and Illinois can expect to see more people on the roads with them, from the biggest highways to the smallest farm roads.

How safe are our roads?  Check our July 2013 post discussing the ranking of Indiana and Illinois highways, “Highway Systems Report Released: Indiana and Illinois Highway Systems Rated and Compared With Nation – How Safe Are Our Highways?”

It’s important that we all deal with the realities of more traffic — and that we are vigilant to all the risks that come with this historic upsurge in the number of vehicles sharing our roads with us and our loved ones.

Train Safety Not Keeping Up With Train Traffic in Indiana: Rising Danger of Train Crashes

August 20th, 2015 by admin

As more and more trains are going to be moving through Indiana in the near future — not only as railroad companies expand their rail traffic, but as additional types of rail traffic like oil trains are coming through here — it’s important for all of us to be aware of the increase in railroad train traffic, especially at railroad crossings, and to stay safe.

However, safety is not guaranteed here just because the railroad companies are expanding.

Local Concerns for Railroad Safety – What Will Railroad Companies Do?

For one thing, there are concerns among those at the local level — mayors and city officials representing towns and cities throughout Indiana, for example — who are worried about the increased dangers to the general public that this rise in train traffic will bring. More trains mean more risk of accidents at railroad crossings, for instance, and more people hurt in train crashes including pedestrians alongside moving rail cars as well as motor vehicle – train collisions.

These city planners would like to see the railroad companies do things like install more crossing gates. Fire houses and fire engines to cover an emergency may be needed, too. There’s also the increased noise, traffic pile ups at congested railroad crossings as trains pass, and the impact to local communities overall from this new rail expansion.

Right now, it’s not at all clear how these problems or going to be solved, and if (or how much) the railroad companies are going to be contributing financially to the solutions. The railroad companies are not legally required to pay for safety upgrades to railroad crossings, for example.

Railroad Companies Will Not Meet 2015 Federal Law Deadline for Rail Safety

Moreover, railroad companies are already behind in meeting federal requirements for safety devices being put on their trains and they’ve notified the Federal Railroad Adminstration that the federal deadline probably will not be met.

Under federal law, railroads are mandated to install new technology to protect against train wrecks, especially when the trains are moving at high speeds. The technology is called “positive train control” (”PTC”).

PTC works by using GPS together with computers to slow or even stop trains that are going too fast or in danger of a collision for other reasons.

The nation’s biggest freight railroad, Union Pacific, hasn’t even started putting PTC on its trains. Amtrak, the big commuter train, hasn’t done it yet, either.

This is a federal safety law that was passed in 2008 and the deadline for compliance is December 31, 2015. It’s not going to be met. There’s already work in Congress to give the railroad companies a 5 – 7 year extension.

Bottom line: when there’s more train traffic, and faster trains, combined with less safety protections in place and railroad companies not putting safety first, then the real danger to Hoosiers of train crashes and train accidents (like derailments and explosions) escalates.

Indiana drivers need to be aware of this increasing risk and take preventative measures as best they can.

Train Crashes: Indiana Ranks High in Railroad Accidents – And We’re Getting More Trains

August 18th, 2015 by admin

Last year in Indiana, 59 people were hurt or killed in accidents that happened at railroad crossings on Indiana roads. This tally doesn’t include accidents or injuries from derailments or other kinds of train accidents involving either citizens or railroad workers.

It also doesn’t consider the explosive risks of the oil trains that are moving through our state now. For more on that danger see our earlier post, “Oil Train Crashes in Indiana and Illinois: Growing Oil Train Explosion Dangers.”

Police See Public Disregard for Railroad Train Dangers

Earlier this summer, there was a news story covering a field trip taken by police officers of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to better understand the risks and dangers of railroad crossing accidents in our part of the country.

The officers saw firsthand as people tried to speed over the tracks as the train approaches as well as kids walking too close to the moving train and other scary almost-accidents. You can read more about their experiences here (including watching a video of women who where run over by a train as they tried to cross a RR bridge).

More Train Traffic Coming to Indianapolis Area

It has been announced that there is going to be more train traffic here in Indiana — CSX Transportation together with the Louisville and Indiana Railroad Company are going to be spending millions of dollars here to upgrade the railroad tracks between Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.

What does that mean for train traffic? It’s estimated that once that work is done, then we could see a 300% increase in the number of trains moving along that rail — think 15 trains zipping through that one rail in the Indianapolis area every day.

And they’ll be going faster. Sometimes they’ll be moving slowly, say at 15 MPH. But those big machines may also be moving through our area at speeds as high at 49 MPH.

So, more trains, faster trains. All the while it’s evident that many Hoosiers underestimate the dangers of railroad crossings and railroad tracks and the high risk of injury or death in train crashes.

According to the Federal Railroad Association, Indiana is second in the country for railroad crossing collisions (only Texas has more).

And this is true before this boost to train traffic here — so can we expect more people to be seriously hurt or killed in Indiana train crashes?

And what are lawmakers doing about this? We’ll discuss that in Thursday’s post.

 

New Blood Test Helps Fast Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries

August 13th, 2015 by admin

Last month, a new research study was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma that brings hope for parents as well as others with loved ones who play school sports like football or soccer, or who are otherwise at risk of a severe concussion and traumatic brain injury.

Read the full text of the report here. It’s entitled “Circulating Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Has Diagnostic and Prognostic Value in Traumatic Brain Injury.”

 

New Blood Test Helps Accident Victims, Athletes, and More

According to the report, a new kind of test has been developed where doctors in the emergency room who are facing someone brought in after suffering a blow to the head can take the patient’s blood. The simple blood test can then help the medical team figure out how serious and severe the head injury is, in ways that other tests cannot.

Why? Concussions and TBIs are notoriously mysterious and hard to diagnose, especially right after a blow to the head. Symptoms and signals that the patient has been seriously hurt and has suffered an injury to their brain can take some time to manifest — days, even weeks — and this blood test may help doctors narrow that time window.

The new brain injury blood test is called the BDNF.

It’s also going to be able to help car crash victims and other accident victims who may have suffered a blow to the head in a motor vehicle accident, an on the job work incident, or other kinds of accidents. The new blood test will help athletes who have concussions but it will also help lots of accident victims, too.

Delay in Diagnosis Can Mean More Harm to TBI Victim

This is great news for anyone concerned with the rapid diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries.

The Brain Injury Association of America reports that:

An estimated 2.4 million children and adults in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and another 795,000 individuals sustain an acquired brain injury (ABI) from non-traumatic causes each year.
Currently more than 5.3 million children and adults in the U.S. live with a lifelong disability as a result of TBI and an estimated 1.1 million have a disability due to stroke.

The Mayo Clinic warns that some brain injuries and concussions may not have any immediate symptoms, even though the victim has a permanent injury. This is because the brain itself may not demonstrate that there is an injury at the actual time it is hurt but only after hours or even days have passed.

Warning signs from the Mayo Clinic:

Headache
Temporary loss of consciousness
Confusion
Amnesia
Dizziness
Ringing in the ears
Nausea
Vomiting
Slurred speech
Delayed response to questions
Appearing dazed
Fatigue
Concentration and memory complaints
Irritability
Sensitivity to light and noise
Sleep disturbances
Psychological problems including depression
Disorders of taste and smell

Full citation:

Circulating Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Has Diagnostic and Prognostic Value in Traumatic Brain Injury. Dr. Frederick Kofi Korley, Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, Dr. Alan H.B. Wu, Mr. John K. Yue, Dr. Geoffrey T. Manley M.D., Ph.D., Dr. Haris I. Sair, Dr. Jennifer Van Eyk, Dr. Allen D. Everett, Dr. David O Okonkwo, Dr. Alex Valadka, Dr. Wayne A Gordon, Prof. Andrew Maas, Dr. Pratik Mukherjee, Dr. Esther Lim Yuh, Ms. Hester Lingsma, Dr. Ava M. Puccio, and Dr. David M. Schnyer. Journal of Neurotrauma. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/neu.2015.3949. Online Ahead of Editing: July 10, 2015

New Concussion Movie Has NFL Worried – A Must See Film for Parents

August 11th, 2015 by admin

On Christmas Day 2015 – just a few months away – a new movie will premiere at theaters throughout Indiana and Illinois. It’s called “Concussion,” and it’s directed by Peter Landesman and stars Will Smith as the doctor who first discovered that two NFL football players who had committed suicide both suffered from CTE (”chronic traumatic encephalopathy”).

You can watch a trailer for the new Concussion movie on YouTube.

 

New Will Smith Movie Will Spotlight Dangers of Football and Brain Injury

The movie details not only the tragedies that many NFL players and their families and loved ones have suffered because of traumatic head injuries but also the history of American football injuries and how the National Football League reacted to the growing number of professional athletes who were having life-altering, permanent injuries as a result of hits to their head.

From the Internet Movie Database comes this description:

Will Smith stars in Concussion, a thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful – and beloved – institutions in the world. Written by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Of course, the National Football League isn’t thrilled about this upcoming major movie. It’s reported that the NFL has already spent significant time planning on how the league will react to the movie after its release.

  • Will American Football be changed as a result of this one film?
  • And will it change how college football is played, as well as high school football?

Parents and Concussion Risks for Student Athletes

We’ve been posting about the dangers of concussions and football head injuries for years now — with a special concern for kids and teenagers who are playing school football and risking permanent injury through a concussion or a series of hits. For more information, see:

Steel Workers in Indiana and Illinois: Will Falling Profits Mean Rising Danger of Injury to Steel Mill Workers?

August 6th, 2015 by admin

It’s no secret to people living and working in Indiana and Illinois that the steel mills in our part of the country are having trouble. It’s reported that U.S. Steel revenue fell 34% in the first quarter of 2015. That’s a huge loss. What’s happening? The argument is that overseas steel manufacturers are able to beat the prices of domestic steel makers because of subsidies, and American steel companies are not able to compete. So they are losing big money.

This has led to a major lawsuit being filed by the major U.S. steel makers with the International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce last week. U.S. Steel has been joined by AKSteel, ArcelorMittal, Nucor, and Steel Dynamics, among others, in a huge case against steel importers from countries like China India, Brazil, and Russia arguing that these foreign steel companies are low-balling steel products here for a staggering to think about 320% under value price just to grab U.S. market share.

For details, read the NWI Times story by Joseph S. Pete entitled, “Steelmakers file sweeping trade case against major importers.

Money’s Tight for Our Steel Makers

What this has meant to our area is that steel mills are losing money and mills are being shut down. Workers are losing jobs.  The belts of the big American steelmakers are tight and getting tighter.

In January, for instance, ArcelorMittal announced it was shutting down two steel facilities in northwest Indiana and 304 workers were going to lose their jobs there. The company said it would try and relocate its employees to other jobs as best it could.

Working in the steel industry is dangerous. Workers, male and female, can get hurt in all sorts of ways, including:

  • Fall on same level
  • Struck by object
  • Caught in object, equipment or material
  • Struck against object
  • Exposure to harmful substance
  • Overexertion (except lifting)
  • Overexertion in lifting
  • Fall to a lower level
  • Transportation accidents
  • Slip, trip
  • Repetitive motion

Are Steel Workers Facing Increased Risk of Injury?

Will these falling profits and decisions to close down facilities mean that steel workers will be less protected while working on the job? Where do safety systems and hazard protections go when everyone in the home office is concerned about the bottom line?

Indiana and Illinois workers in the steel mills and steel facilities who are able to keep their jobs need to be extra cautious right now and in the future.

It’s a concern that when times get tight, safety isn’t the first thing on people’s minds and dangers of on the job injury increase. Be careful!

How Safe are Hoosiers at Work: Workplace Dangers Increase for Indiana Mines

August 4th, 2015 by admin

Last December, the Indiana Department of Labor published it yearly report on non-fatal injury and illness statistics for the State of Indiana. It was good news for Hoosiers: in 2013, the numbers were at record lows for people working on the job who got hurt or became ill from hazards at work. How low? According to the Indiana DOL report, 3.8% of 100 workers suffered from occupational injury or illness in that calendar year.

Now, this was data compiled for full-time workers only and it covered 2013. And it was average — all the different types of jobs were tallied together, so jobs with high risk of injury (think construction) were in the same pot with those with much lower dangers (think librarians).

You can read and download the full report at the IDOL website.

 

So, How Safe Are Hoosiers At Work Today? Depends Upon the Job.

Different jobs require different gifts and talents, and different kinds of work come with different kinds of risk. Workers in local mines or mills are at high risk of injury. So are people who are working in the construction trades. Dangers of life-altering injuries or wrongful death come with the job and accidents or injuries that include:

  • Falls (ladders, scaffolding, beams, etc.)
  • Breathing in materials, chemicals, or heat (respiratory harm)
  • Electrical burns
  • Electrocution
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Machine accidents (amputation, loss of limb)
  • Burns from explosions
  • Death from explosions.

Miners in Indiana Saw 23% Jump in Injuries and Illnesses in 2013

According to the IDOL report, some industries in Indiana actually saw an INCREASE in the number of workers who were hurt or became ill from occupational hazards on the job. These included the following major Indiana industries:

Mining;
educational services;
Information;
finance and insurance; and
real estate and rental leasing.

Of particular concern is the mining industry in Indiana. Miners in Indiana, take note. From the report:

The mining industry saw a 23.08% increase in the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses—from a rate of 2.6 in 2012 to 3.2 in 2013. Mining companies with 50-249 employees had a rate of 2.0, which was the lowest in the industry. Companies with 250-999 employees had the highest rate with 4.2 injuries per 100 full-time workers.

According to the Mining Safety and Health Administration, there were 20 deaths from fatal injuries in mines in the year 2013. For details on what happened in these fatal accidents, you can read the individual reports at the MSHA website.

 

Coal is Big Business in Indiana

Everyone in our part of the country recognizes the importants of mines — particularly coal mines — here in Indiana and Illinois. For how important coal is to Indiana, and therefore how vital mines and miners are to Hoosiers, read the recent op-ed in the Times by Andrea Neal, “King coal is Hoosier state’s most valuable resource.”

In Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s annual 2014 Coal Report, there has been a 500% increase in the amount of coal mined out of underground Indiana mines in the past 16 years; most of this coal is coming out of Gibson and Knox counties which each have three active coal mines employing Indiana coal miners. (Indiana miners are also employed at coal mines in Green County, Pike County and Sullivan County.)

In the single year of 2014, Indiana miners were responsible for bring up 18,168,192.58 tons of coal out of Indiana coal mines. That’s a lot of coal. That’s a lot of work.  That’s a lot of opportunity for people to get hurt or fall sick.

Miners here in Indiana need to be kept safe from harm in a very hazardous line of work. Both federal and state laws are on the books to protect miners, and there are also laws in place to help victims of accident and illness from working on the job in Indiana mines.

However, as the fever for coal keeps increasing, the danger to miners increases as well. Miners and their families need to be aware of the dangers that are present as well as what is being done (or not done) to keep miners safe from harm.

Will Huge Transportation Bill End Up Deregulating Trucking Industry?

July 30th, 2015 by admin

Right now, there is a big fight down in Washington, D.C., over a bill moving through Congress that deals with transportation issues, and specifically the American trucking industry. The bill itself is over 1000 pages long. The big deal here is funding. The goal here is to pass a massive law that will fund over $300 Billion for the highways, etc., that cross our nation.

It passed the Senate last week.

However, inserted within all those provisions about highways and the cost of repair and build are major changes for trucking companies. Things that help the trucking industry but are of great concern to those worried about the safety of American roads where huge and heavy big rig semi trucks drive alongside sedans, SUVs, minivans, and motorcycles.

These include:

  • Lowering the minimum age for someone to be a commercial truck driver who drives cargo across state lines from 21 to 18.
  • Keeping safety rankings given to trucking companies by FMCSA private and not accessible to the American public.

 

Knowing these safety rankings is a big deal.

Think about it from the trucking company’s perspective: if no one can see the FMCSA logs of your dangerous drivers, then are you as likely to keep them off the roads — particularly when there’s a shortage of commercial truck drivers available to move that freight?

It’s not like those FMCSA safety logs are considered all that reliable, anyway. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin just asked for an audit of the federal agency by the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation, and the audit is going forward.

From the Inspector General’s May 2015 announcement:

 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability program identifies high risk motor carriers for intervention such as targeted roadside inspections and compliance reviews. However, high profile crashes have raised concerns about the timeliness and effectiveness of FMSCA’s reviews of these carriers. In 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated 4 carriers involved in crashes that collectively resulted in 25 fatalities and 83 injuries. These investigations revealed that FMCSA conducted safety reviews of the carriers prior to their crashes—1 only 5 days before—but did not uncover certain pre-existing safety deficiencies or act on others until after the crashes.

In 2014, a motor carrier known to FMCSA as high-risk was involved in a fatal crash in Illinois. Despite the carrier’s risk status, FMSCA did not conduct an investigation. Following this crash, Senator Dick Durbin requested that we audit FMCSA’s investigative practices for high-risk motor carriers. The 2015 appropriations legislation also directed us to review FMCSA’s compliance review process. Accordingly, we are initiating this audit. Our audit objective is to assess FMCSA’s processes for ensuring that reviews of motor carriers flagged for investigation are timely and adequate.

Less Fatal Truck Crashes If Truck Drivers Paid by the Hour, Not the Mile?

July 28th, 2015 by admin

Many folk here in Indiana and Illinois drive alongside big rigs, semi trucks, and those long 18-wheeler tractor trailer trucks on congested highways like the Borman Expressway without thinking about how dangerous any kind of accident might be with one of these heavy, fully-loaded commercial trucks. When there is a collision between a big rig semi truck carrying cargo and a smaller sedan, or SUV, or minivan, that smaller car usually gets the worst of it. All too often, someone dies in a truck crash.

Which is why there are all sorts of regulations at both the state and federal level regarding the trucking industry. The routes that the trucks can drive is regulated, for example. How many hours the tractor-trailer truck can be driven before the truck driver takes a break is regulated by “hours of service” (HOS) rules under federal law.

However, one thing that is still being debated that might make the roads much safer for all of us — including the truck drivers — is changing how most of these truck drivers are paid.

Many are arguing that it is time that laws be passed to make trucking companies pay the truck drivers by the hour. The driver would get an hourly rate, just like construction workers or nurses or some lawyers, for that matter.

This is because right now in the United States, most truck drivers are paid by the mile driven, not by the hour they spend behind the wheel.  Truck drivers that are paid by the mile have an incentive to speed to cover more miles because miles = money.

1. Factors in How Truck Drivers Are Paid

Truck drivers get paid based upon a number of factors. These include things like the type of truck they’re driving, and the years of experience they have behind the wheel. Truckers who are driving vehicles that have a gross truck weight at or over 26,001 lbs are considered to be driving “heavy trucks” and they get paid more.

Truckers with a Class B commercial driver’s license don’t earn the same as a truck driver with a Class C CDL. Hazardous cargo? The truck driver gets paid more. Hazardous route – like Alaska? Ditto.

2. The Argument that Paying Truck Drivers By the Mile is Dangerous

In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, the argument is made that changing how the majority of truckers are paid to by-the-hour from by-the-mile would not only make the roads safer for all of us, but it would encourage people to become truck drivers.

Right now, there is a big shortage of people willing to enter the profession of driving these heavy, big commercial trucks. It’s a real issue for the trucking industry, this lack of truck drivers – especially for the heavy trucks and long truck routes. If truck drivers could have the security of knowing they were being paid by the hour, then the argument is more applicants might come forward to learn how to be big rig drivers.

And these truckers wouldn’t have the financial temptations to ignore federal HOS rules, etc., to keep driving when they shouldn’t just to get those miles. Roads would be safer because no longer would the trucker’s incentive be to tally up their mileage because miles = money and time at rest is time they’re not being paid.

Will There Be a Federal Law to Make Hourly Pay the Standard for Trucker Pay?

Last year, Senator Cory Booker introduced a bill in Congress that would make it federal for truck drivers to be paid by the hour. The Senator is reported to have been inspired to draft the legislation after the fatal truck crash involving famed comedian Tracy Morgan in New Jersey.

Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has started the process of formally studying the possibility of paying truck drivers by the mile. In February, FMCSA reportedly was submitting a plan for a study on “the impact of driver compensation on commercial motor vehicle safety” to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and asked for comments on its proposal. For the full text, see the Federal Register published February 4, 2015.

“The study will evaluate the relationship between property carrying motor carriers compensation methods and incidences of unsafe driving,” explains the FMCSA. “In particular, the research team will determine if there is a potential relationship between method of driver compensation and safe driving behavior.”

With efforts being made in both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, movement is being made to change the industry standard for how truck drivers are paid in the United States. This will be advanced as a means of making Americans safer on the roads; however, we can expect the trucking industry to fight against this major change just as they fought against the HOS Rule changes. For the trucking companies, paying by the mile is better for their bottom line and it’s working just fine for them.