The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is finally asking a critically important question that may impact the future of trucking safety in the United States. Over the past several years, the agency has been fixated on the number of hours that drivers spend behind the wheel without resting. This has been an understandable preoccupation, especially given how many truck accidents occur on an annual basis as a result of truck driver fatigue.
However, truck driver fatigue is not the only factor contributing to the startling number of truck accidents which occur on American roads on a daily basis. One of the other major contributing factors is almost certainly the ways in which truck drivers earn their paychecks.
When truck drivers sign up to drive around the nation in exchange for a paycheck, the ways in which that paycheck is calculated help to determine the ways in which truck drivers operate their vehicles. For example, drivers are almost certainly more likely to speed if they receive incentives for arriving at a destination faster than they would if they drove at the speed limit. Similarly, if truck drivers are financially penalized for loading and unloading times (if their paychecks are determined solely by mileage clocked, for example), they will likely risk safety by loading or unloading in unsafe but quick ways.
The FMCSA has finally determined that it will study whether truck driver pay factors contribute to safety risks or not. This study is almost certainly going to be vitally important and is arguably long overdue.
Source: Trucking Info, "FMCSA Will Study Driver Pay Impact on Safety," Oliver Patton, Aug. 29, 2014