Between 300 and 400 truck drivers at the Port of Seattle walked off the job this week, saying that their trucks are unsafe for them and the public.
Among their complaints, according to a KING5 news report, is that they are forced to carry overweight loads. And in fact, recent port truck inspections revealed that of 15 trucks inspected in one day, four drivers received tickets and three received warnings for carrying overweight loads. And, overweight loads of course can be contributing factors in truck accidents.
Drivers also said that it is unfair that they are responsible to pay these fines, when they are not the ones who are packing the cargo too full. Most often, according to the report, the container belongs to the shipper while the chassis that the container sits on is owned by a trailer company. The drivers themselves own the actual truck.
These multiple layers of responsibility also add to the complications of personal injury and wrongful death litigation following trucking accidents.
According to drivers interviewed by news reporters, shippers often overload the containers because if they can move more at one time, they will make more money. Of course, this shortcut is not worth risking personal injury or even death to the truck drivers and others in their paths.
The walk-off has affected some Puget Sound businesses that have lost sales because they are not receiving necessary shipments. The issue has also encouraged lawmakers to look at whether legislation needs to address these and other trucking safety problems. The trucking industry is regulated at both the federal and state levels.
Olympia lawmakers recently introduced legislation to redirect responsibility to the companies that are subcontracting drivers, but of course shipping and retail representatives testified against this.
However, this issue needs to be addressed. Even at low speeds, accidents involving semi-trucks can be devastating. In the news report, one truck driver said the issue puts him in a truly difficult position. “It’s very dangerous for the public… it’s very dangerous for me. But I have to provide food for my family.”
Source: KING5.com, “Hundreds of truck drivers walk off job at Port of Seattle,” Chris Ingalls, Feb. 3, 2012