Truck Safety and Good Wages: An Interesting Correlation

Calculator and truckWe recently read a blog posted by Ronald Miller in his excellent Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog about an interesting correlation which exists between truck driver compensation and safety outcomes. According to a study by Cornell University (about which the Miller wrote), the more a truck driver is paid the less likely he is to engage in risky behavior. This actually seems to be common sense. Those drivers who have to drive too many hours or drive while fatigued are obviously doing so in order to increase their wages. If they were paid a fair wage based on reasonable work hours and driving conditions there would be no reason for them to engage in such risky behavior. Regrettably, the anecdotal experience we have as lawyers here in Georgia tends to indicate that the study conducted by Cornell University is absolutely “spot on”.

A case we handled is a good example of this interesting correlation. In this case, the truck driver was paid by the mile. The more miles he drove, the more money he made. Unfortunately, his mileage rate was lower than is customary and thus he had to work long hours and drive while fatigued to make a decent wage. Of course, this was a deadly mixture because this driver, in order to keep driving such long hours and distances began taking methamphetamine and amphetamine and finally cocaine. The term “speed ball” is almost an industry term by now base on this phenomenon and refers to drivers who are hyped up all the time on stimulants in order to allow them to drive longer and longer hours and greater and greater distances. Why? To increase their compensation.

The attorneys here at our office certainly can attest based on our experience in handling many such cases that truck drivers will speed and drive without proper rest in order to make more money. Thus, if trucking companies paid good wages on the front side and provided good working conditions, the risk to the public would go down. Thus, the implication of the study conducted by Cornell University is that the trucking industry needs to engage in some self-evaluation. If there is reform in wages, there will be an impact on safety. This is nothing more than common sense. Regrettably, in our judgment, because of the desire to maximize profits at the expense of the public, accidents will continue to occur until the reform is mandated either by a government body, the insurance industry, or the employer/trucking companies themselves.


About Richard Hendrix

Richard W. Hendrix is a former state and federal prosecutor who has more than 30 years of experience in complex civil and criminal litigation. He has also served as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR).

Since joining Finch McCranie in 1985, Mr. Hendrix has built an extensive litigation practice focusing on wrongful death and serious personal injury cases as well as federal white collar criminal defense cases. He has successfully represented injured parties in personal injury cases throughout the state of Georgia. Mr. Hendrix has also effectively defended business and individuals, including a former US Congressman, against indictments and grand jury investigations. In 2006 and 2008-2012, he was selected to Georgia Super Lawyers.

He is admitted to practice in Georgia and South Carolina. Mr. Hendrix is licensed to appear before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and Eleventh Circuit.

From 1979-1985, Mr. Hendrix served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He was also Associate Independent Counsel for the investigation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1991-1992.

Mr. Hendrix graduated with cum laude honors from Davidson College and he received his law degree from Emory University. Since 1992, Mr. Hendrix has been an Adjunct Professor of Litigation at Georgia State University College of Law. He is also a Master of the Bench with the Lamar American Inn of Court where he works to enhance the professional, ethics and skills of the legal community.

Mr. Hendrix has also authored numerous articles including: “High Speed Police Chases and Injured Innocent By-Standers,” The Verdict (Summer, 2015) “Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Tort Cases for Victims of a Crime,” The Verdict (Fall, 2007); “A Refresher On the Federal Tort Claims Act,” The Verdict (Winter, 1999); “Rule 16 and the Jencks Act: A Need for Legal Reform,” Calendar Call (Winter, 1996); “Corporate Criminal Liability: The Need for Effective Compliance Programs,” South Carolina Lawyer (March/April, 1993); “Crossing State Lines in Wrongful Death Actions: Traps for the Unwary,” The Verdict (Fall, 1990); and “White Collar Crime: New Tools for Prosecution,” The Atlanta Lawyer (Summer, 1986)