Previously, we discussed a Tennessee truck driver that was fired after refusing to drive fatigued2 and over his allowed hours. His insistence that operating his rig while tired could cause a commercial truck accident, lost him his job, but a jury awarded him $180,000 for his illegal termination. It would seem that despite that large settlement Tennessee trucking companies still haven t realized that they can t fire drivers for wanting to drive safely.
Heartland Transportation is based in Andersonville, TN and is contracted by the US Postal Service to carry large loads of mail. In August 2009 one of their Knoxville drivers was asked to make a northern run. He noticed that one of his trailer s lights didn t work and refused to make the run until the light was fixed. This wasn t the first safety concern the truck driver had noticed, and eventually he told his bosses he was no longer going to drive trucks with malfunctioning equipment.
When the Knoxville driver returned from another delivery, he found that he was no longer on the schedule and was told he d been fired. The man filed a complaint with the US Department of Labor s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), since his firing was in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act which makes it illegal to retaliate against workers who raise safety concerns.
After a three year battle the wrongly fired driver has been awarded $31,200 including $9,895 in back pay. Not surprisingly the trucking company is still not admitting any wrongdoing but did agree to post notices reminding drivers to always raise safety concerns and would erase any mention of the firing from the man s records.
The blatant disregard for safety by trucking companies are one of the main causes of Knoxville trucking accidents3. Truck companies are constantly pushing drivers to make deliveries faster and faster, and this means working long hours and with poorly maintained 18-wheelers.
So if you ve been hurt in a Knoxville truck accident, chances are big truck companies may be at fault, and you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The Knoxville truck accident lawyers at the McMahan Law Firm have years of experience fighting insurance companies for people in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Dunlap, Rossville, Winchester, and throughout southeastern Tennessee.
Let the McMahan Law Firm fight to get you the money you deserve after your injury accident. Contact them today4 and let them get started on your Knoxville commercial truck accident claim with a free case evaluation.
Source. KnoxNews.com, http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/jul/02/whistleblower-wins-30k-in-trucking-company/?partner=yahoo_feeds, Matt Lakin, July 2, 2012.
Source. WDEF.com, http://www.wdef.com/news/state/story/Knoxville-firm-to-pay-settlement-to-whistleblower/u7yEgHilSEybE4xGmnA_aw.cspx, July 2, 2012.
Alabama trucking company cited by US Department of Labor’s OSHA for serious safety violations and other hazards; $56,700 proposed in penalties
Transportation injuries at work lead the list of industrial accidents and OSHA is now enforcing safety procedures to hopefully reduce trucking injuries. Historically the trucking and transportation industry has take a “hard line” position in defending workers’ compensation claims of truckers. Truckers suffer many work-related claims because of the requirements to lift and carry objects in awkward positions.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administrationhas cited trucking company Alabama Motor Express Inc. in Ashford for 17 safety violations. OSHA opened an inspection in March under the agency’s Site-Specific Targeting Program, which directs enforcement resources to workplaces with higher-than-average rates of injuries and illnesses. Proposed penalties total $56,700.Thirteen serious violations include failing to perform a personal protective equipment hazard assessment; provide an eyewash station for workers exposed to corrosive chemicals; provide fire extinguisher training; provide training for forklift operators; provide guarding on a bench grinder and around an open pit; reduce the pressure on an air hose to less than 30 pounds per square inch for cleaning; store oxygen and acetylene cylinders at least 20 feet apart; and provide a hazard communication program. Additional violations include the improper use of electrical equipment, a missing inner electrical panel and failing to provide weatherproof enclosures for outlets in damp and wet locations. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry $55,800 in penalties.
Four other-than-serious violations involve failing to maintain the OSHA 300 log properly for reporting injuries and illnesses, establish a respiratory protection program, and protect electrical conductors from abrasion and close unused openings in the electrical panel. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. The citations carry $900 in penalties.
“Employers cannot wait for an OSHA inspection to identify the hazards that expose workers to serious injury,” said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile. “It is good business to implement preventive programs to ensure that such hazards are identified and corrected as part of the company’s day-to-day operations.”
Alabama Motor Express, a trucking company, provides logistics, maintenance and fleet services. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Mobile Area Office at 251-441-6131.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov2.
Western Ports Transportation, Inc., one of the trucking companies that allegedly harassed and retaliated against contract truckers for supporting labor rights bills in Olympia, has reached a settlement1 with one worker granting him and the company’s independent contractors key concessions.
You may remember early last February2, labor Democrats pushed a pair of bills that would have given independent truckers at the Port of Seattle the same workers’ comp and unemployment benefits as those employed by the trucking companies and would have made the companies responsible for dangerous and faulty cargo. The independent truckers are in a fix because they have to pay for their own trucks, their own gas, and their own insurance and are often fined for carrying faulty cargo containers; these are mostly immigrant workers from Africa just trying to get a foothold in the economy.pullquote”Restroom Facilities. Respondent agrees that Complainant and his co-workers may use Western Port Transportation, Inc.’s restroom facilities as needed.”/pullquote
The reason you might remember these bills is because after a group of independent truckers went down to Olympia to testify in support, the trucking companies retaliated, truckers said, by harassing them with dangerous loads and then suspending them for balking. A major “wildcat strike” ensued3. (The workers are not unionized because they’re not employees … a bit of a Catch-22 in their efforts to improve their working conditions, which include no workers’ comp or unemployment and lack of access to port terminal bathrooms.)
Shortly after the strike, on February 17, one trucker, Demeke Yared Meconnen, filed a harassment complaint against trucking company Western Ports Transportation Inc. with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, OSHA. Meconnen filed the complaint in person, verbally, at the local OSHA office.
Summarizing his complaint, Meconnen said:
I went to Olympia to testify for the misclassification bill and it happened that my boss was there. A week later there was another hearing for equipment safety. Me and another 150 drivers went to Olympia to support the bill. The next morning I went back to work I got a question from my dispatcher. Where were you yesterday? I told them straight up that I went to Olympia.
And then for a punishment they gave me a load that was heavy. Unsafe. I don t have the right equipment. I refused the load. When I refused the load they retaliated. They suspended me and told me to take the rest of the week off. When that happened the other 24 fellow drivers, followed me, they refused their loads. But then at the end of the shift they sent me a text that said I could come back to work tomorrow.
Earlier this month, Meconnen and Western Ports reached a settlement including a $500 payment to Meconnen. More important, though, the company agreed to some workplace concessions:
They agreed to increase pay for roundtrip pay by $5 for the containers moved between ports. (Independent truckers can only work for one company and are often stuck without a return cargo (known as a backhaul), and wasting hours and gas, cargo-less on return trips.)
Addressing the same problem, Western Ports agreed that when drivers start their day in Tacoma or end their day in Tacoma without a backhaul, the driver be paid $15 to get back to Seattle.
They agreed that independent truckers may inspect their vehicles at any location on Port or Port terminal property, and they agreed not to retaliate against truckers who conduct vehicle inspections.
They agreed that they wouldn’t say anything to a third party (such as another potential employer) that could damage the name, character, or employment of any trucker who has filed a complaint against a trucking company.
They agreed to post whistleblower protection standards prominently around work sites.
And while not as technical, the independent contractors got a serious win: “Restroom Facilities. Respondent agrees that Complainant and his co-workers may use Western Port Transportation, Inc.’s restroom facilities as needed.”