A History Lesson in Not Getting Paid Transportation Charges

It’s not every day I get a call from a member where I’m able to invoke 200+ years of American history to basically blame our member for his troubles. A recent late afternoon call left me and our member nearly in tears laughing at the underlying ironic truth to my response to his problem.

Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of “when” not “if” when a trucking company owner will get stiffed on a freight bill. While there are sometimes options such as hitting a brokers bond to get payment, if you are dealing shipper direct and have a signed contract and then get shorted on freight charges, your only option is to sue – and this just isn’t really a viable choice when you are talking about a few hundred dollars. Who wants to spend a buck trying to recover a penny?

Our member who called me is originally from London, England and has a very distinctive Cockney accent. He was upset that a company he’d contracted with in Vancouver, British Columbia to haul produce from Yuma, Arizona had agreed contractually to pay him detention time for the excess hours spent waiting to load at the cooler. They ultimately hosed him on the detention charges and didn’t pay. The detention pay terms were agreed in writing since he wasn’t interested in hauling anything from this particular cooler because they sometimes take 15 hours to get you loaded out – even when showing up on-time for an appointment. Pretty standard business practices when hauling produce.

Our member made the point to me that trucking in America is really screwed up. He said we have more senseless rules and regulations than anywhere else in the world and when it comes to a modicum of protection for the trucker to get paid, our economic system is pretty much AWOL. I couldn’t really disagree with him – he’s right and yet there is no easy answer to his dilemma. But what could I say to at least show him the association is right on top of this issue? It came to me in a flash.

I told our member that since he is English he bears primary responsibility for the mess he found himself in. I told him had the English not defended Canadian territorial integrity in the War of 1812, Canada would likely be nothing more than an extension of the “good old U.S. of A” and it’d be easier for him to sue, win, and enforce a judgment against the company that screwed him.

There was complete dead silence on my phone for a moment and then I got this response; “I can’t believe you are bringing up the War of 1812 but since you went there, I’ll remind you that you still owe us for a perfectly good load of tea dumped into Boston Harbor in 1773.”

I didn’t miss a beat responding, “Well, there you have it; you English have been getting screwed on transportation charges in America for 241 years – when are you going to learn?”

We get many calls from members seeking advice, help, and assistance on many different issues and unfortunately there isn’t always a solution to resolve every problem. I learned a long-time ago that “ironic humor” and being able to laugh off some of life’s indignities is better than the option of stewing on a wrong and even getting consumed by it. In this case, our member went into the weekend laughing at the historical context of getting shafted out of $250.

“Do Truckers Really Care About Their Health?”

That question came from a member asking if a medical examiner had any business withholding medical certification for a driver in lieu of him either losing 20 pounds or getting a sleep study to determine if he suffered from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It turns out the driver who was the focus of the question, based on weight and height is considered to be “morbidly obese.” Our member actually couldn’t believe the amount of denial by truckers when they have specific health issues; they’d rather “keep-on truckin” instead of dealing with the underlying health issue he said. The simple answer to this question is – yes, a medical examiner can make that assessment based on their medical knowledge.

While congress instructed FMCSA to use the rulemaking process if/or when the agency decides to issue specific recommendations to medical examiners for screening drivers on whether they have sleep apnea, FMCSA is basically holding to the fact the current medical qualification rules do not exclude a medical examiner from considering “respiratory” issues in the medical exam. OSA falls under that broad category. Because of the new certification process that all medical examiners must go through in order to approve a driver to operate a CMV in “interstate commerce” and also because of fear by medical examiners of being sued for improperly certifying a driver, medical examiners do have the leeway to use their professional medical judgment in making determinations to withhold medical certification.

The extent of denial by some drivers is troubling when a medical examiner delivers unwanted news about their health. Certain health issues are not something that could be characterized as trivial or parsing hairs. Just maybe the medical examiner is trying to save a life.