There is one fundamental safety problem with the way most trucking companies pay their truck drivers – they are typically paid by the mile, not the hour. This poses a danger to all of us on the road.

A driver who is paid by the mile has an incentive to log as many miles as possible. In order to log more miles, many truck drivers violate the speed limits. Because of the sheer weight of these trucks, whether fully loaded or not, even a low-impact collision can be devastating or deadly. Drivers are going to be in a hurry to complete their deliveries and begin the next one, which can lead to carelessness while on the road and at all other times in the loading/unloading process. These drivers have less reason to do other things important for safety, including pre-trip inspections. A driver paid by the mile is more likely to rush the inspection process, and hit the road with an unsafe 18-wheeler.

Under the pay-per-mile model, many drivers falsify their driving logs to show compliance with the federal laws on rest-truck drivers are required to take rest periods based on the amount of hours they are driving.

Changing to a pay-per-hour model would likely decrease accidents, and it would do much to eliminate the incentives to falsify hourly driving logs. Because the pay is tied to hourly work, the logs created for compliance with the regulations would be easy to match up with the driver’s time sheets and pay. Any disparities between the two would be obvious, and would point to an employer who is clearly encouraging drivers to violate the system.

Paying by the mile doesn’t even really make sense. Depending on speed limits and delivery routes, two drivers who work the same number of hours can travel very different numbers of miles. Shouldn’t the driver who is forced to maneuver his truck in a city location more frequently (more difficult to do with a big rig) be entitled to more money that a truck driver who leisurely cruises down the highway at 65 mph?

To be sure, the pay-per-hour model might be a little more expensive for truck companies, and that expense gets passed onto consumers. But, trucking companies that use the pay-per-hour model report higher driver retention (a big deal when it costs upwards of $3,000 to recruit and train a new driver) and fewer accidents (which provide a clear cost-savings in terms on work hours, equipment repair and opportunity cost.)

In 2009 there were 3,619 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses, and 93,000 injuries involving large trucks and buses. The cost of these crashes totaled over $43 billion (FMCSA Commercial Motor Vehicle Facts.)

If you’ve been injured in a Maryland, Virginia or D.C. truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer at (888) 213-8140, or online for a free consultation. Our injury attorneys have experience in determining whether truck drivers and their companies violated federal and state rules which may have caused your accident.