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Employment Abuses In The Trucking Industry

Long hours, low pay and extreme risk make for a poor working environment. In the case of commercial truck driving, they also increase the chances of a deadly crash. Long-haul trucking has been targeted by a disturbing trend. Many trucking companies use a change in employment status to make outrageous profits at the expense of workers. Drivers are often misled into believing that working as an independent contractor will be the ticket to increased salary and freedom from the sometimes onerous control over the work. In reality, drivers may find themselves with less control than ever over their working lives while simultaneously facing sharply reduced wages and no benefits.

Trucking companies may prefer to label a worker as an independent contractor because it saves them money and frees them from obligations like providing for worker's compensation and unemployment benefits. Misclassification is a common problem in many fields. Whether you are an employee or an independent contractor is not dictated by your contract. An employer cannot turn employees into independent contractors by getting them to sign on the dotted line. Classification depends on a number of factors laid out by the Department of Labor. 

Among the factors considered are the importance of your work to the employer's business and the nature and degree of control the employer has over you. Other factors include your investment in the facilities and equipment necessary for the job and how your skill affects your opportunity to make more money. If your work is vital to your employer and they control where and when you complete that work, you may be an employee rather than a contractor.

The move from employee to independent contractors has contributed to the dramatic decrease in the quality of life enjoyed by truck drivers. Drivers are forced to drive farther, faster and for longer periods than they once were. As independent contractors, they may feel compelled to ignore federal regulations regarding hours of service just to make ends meet. The result is an abusive environment that hurts truck drivers and makes the roads less safe for everyone.

Source: The Atlantic, "Truck Stop: How One of America's Steadiest Jobs Turned Into One of Its Most Grueling," by Steve Viscelli, 10 May 2016 

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