Your Rights as a Truck Driver in AL
Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2018.
Truck drivers face one of the most challenging lines of work available, and as such have several legal protections to ensure their rights as employees. Every state has unique laws concerning the rights of truck drivers, and every Alabama truck driver should familiarize themselves with the laws in Alabama concerning truck driver unemployment benefits, home time, truck maintenance, dispatcher harassment, and employer retaliation.
Hours of Service
Many trucking companies operate on tight deadlines and demanding delivery schedules. In the past, this meant that many drivers would drive for exceedingly long shifts, often putting their personal health and well-being at risk. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented the Hours of Service laws to ensure that truck drivers can do their jobs safely and effectively and get adequate rest between shifts.
Generally, truck drivers operate on 11-hour shifts. This means that a trucking company should not expect a driver to drive for more than 11 hours at one time, with at least a ten hour rest period between shifts. There are also specific laws governing acceptable rest periods and how long a driver must rest off-duty before resuming driving. Additionally, most truck drivers follow a maximum of a 60 hour work week for seven days or a 70 hour work week for eight days. After each work week, a driver must take at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
Trucking companies do not approve or deny unemployment benefits to drivers. The state in which a truck driver resides makes such determinations using “prima facie” evidence. This means that a truck driver can usually succeed with an unemployment claim simply by filing a claim with the local unemployment office. Most trucking companies simply won’t bother contesting an out-of-state claim, and even those within the truck driver’s state won’t consider hiring a lawyer to fight an unemployment claim worth the hassle except in extraordinary circumstances.
Truck drivers crisscross the country over thousands of miles and must often take rest breaks far from home. However, truck drivers are legally entitled to “home time,” or time off at their private residences. Truck drivers simply coordinate home time with dispatchers. If a dispatcher contests a home time request with no justification, the truck driver should get in touch with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. A phone call from a lawyer is often more than enough to have a home time request approved.
No truck driver should work with an unsafe vehicle, but it’s sometimes difficult to get a trucking company to respond to a maintenance request. Asking for a Level 1 inspection at a weigh station is a good way to ensure a truck receives appropriate maintenance in a timely manner at no risk to the driver. If the inspection results in an issue with the truck, the Department of Transportation official at the weigh station will mark the truck out of service until the trucking company sends someone to fix it.
Harassment and Retaliation
Dispatchers may not harass truck drivers during their off-duty time. Although the definitions for harassment are somewhat ambiguous, a labor lawyer is a good resource to determine whether or not a driver is actually facing harassment. Additionally, employer retaliation is another issue a labor lawyer can handle. “Retaliation” in this sense refers to an employer taking adverse action against an employee for a protected action, such as filing for workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, time off requests, or reporting workplace hazards to oversight agencies.
Drivers who suspect rights violations have impacted them should reach out to reliable labor attorneys in Alabama to explore their options for legal recourse. Truck driving is a demanding and complex job, and it’s vital for truck drivers to know and protect their rights as employees.