Micheal Belzer, an economics professor at Wayne State University, recently published a study showing a strong correlation between truck driver pay and road safety.
In this article, Truck drivers are overtired, underworked, and underpaid, he explains his findings.
The data suggest that economic factors affecting drivers contribute significantly to truck crashes.
A link between truck driver pay and safety
Long-haul commercial truckers are paid per mile. They don’t get paid for time spent at the loading dock—and that can be a lot of hours.
Because shippers aren’t paying for the truckers’ time, they don’t have a direct financial incentive to load and unload the cargo as quickly as possible.
15 minutes of excessive delay time increases the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent.
Truckers stuck at a loading dock record that time as off-duty so they can drive more. A long-haul trucker survey found many admit to working more than 75 hours a week. The federal limit is 60 hours.
The solution, according to the study, is an increase in trucker driver pay.
We calculated that, at 60 cents per mile, truck drivers will trade labor for leisure,
working fewer hours and thereby reducing crashes and improving highway safety.
This is an interesting conclusion, as it doesn’t address the fact that truck drivers lose a lot of time loading and unloading (not to mention their time stuck in traffic, or looking for parking).
Should we pay truckers by the hour?
I am not an economics professor, but in thirty-plus years of filing lawsuits against dangerous trucking companies, I have learned a few things.
One, paying truckers per mile rewards them for speeding and unsafe driving. A majority of trucking companies pay drivers between $0.28 and $0.45 cents per mile. Does a raise to $.60 per mile decrease those incentives?
Two, a tired truck driver already has more financial incentive to keep driving than to pull over for an unpaid rest. And motor carriers often push their truckers to keep going – no matter what.
Finally, we know that experienced truckers leave the industry when they don’t make enough money for their time and effort. The turnover rate is even higher among inexperienced drivers, who are much more likely to cause a serious crash.
Professor Belzer’s study: Work-stress factors associated with truck crashes: An exploratory analysis