There are laws meant to protect truck drivers from retaliation by their employers when they report safety violations. However, trucking companies do not always heed those laws and truck drivers who speak up may be punished or fired. When truck drivers are punished for calling attention to safety problems, their only recourse is to complain to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), then wait and hope that some action will be taken.
In October, 2010, OSHA ordered Zurla Trucking of Florida, to reinstate a driver it had fired in February, 2008, for refusing to drive unsafe trucks. Zurla was ordered to pay the driver back wages plus interest, compensatory damages, and $125,000 in punitive damages. The company must also remove any negative information related to the incident from the truck driver’s record.
According to OSHA, Zurla violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) whistleblower protections. STAA protects truck drivers who refuse to drive vehicles they believe are unsafe or are in violation of federal trucking regulations.
Truck drivers have a vested interest in trucking safety, but they can also be the only thing standing between the general public and the trucking company’s reckless greed. Every time a trucker puts his foot down for safety, he puts his job on the line, and OSHA does not have a good track record for supporting truck drivers and enforcing STAA. The ruling against Zurla is a victory for truck drivers and for everyone else on the road. We hope it will become a trend.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a trucking accident, please contact us today. Your initial consultation is free, and we work on a contingency fee basis so you don’t pay unless you get paid.