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Driver issuesLegal issuesNews

Driver abuse complaints continue to follow Amazon

A Tennessee truck driver alleged he was coerced into violating federal hours-of-service (HOS) laws while hauling freight for Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN] through his employer, leading to injuries he sustained after crashing his truck.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington state, where Amazon is based, Timothy Weakley claims Amazon and his employer, South Holland, Illinois-based AAA Freight Inc., “worked [Weakley] into the ground like a rented mule,” intentionally depriving him of sleep.

To hide Amazon and AAA’s alleged negligence, Weakley asserted, AAA routinely edited his electronic logbook entries so that law enforcement or the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) “would be none the wiser.”

Weakley, who has filed lawsuits against several other trucking companies, is seeking damages that include pain and suffering, loss of earnings and earning capacity, and medical bills. He alleges his damages exceed $75,000. 

AAA Freight “is one of thousands of companies we contract with to move inventory around the country,” Amazon stated in response to the allegations. “We require our contractors and their drivers to comply with strict policies that ensure safety, among other things. We are actively looking into the claims, as we always do when these rare, but unfortunate, situations arise.”

David Henry, AAA Freight’s CFO, told FreightWaves he declined to comment “until after our investigation into the matter is complete.”

In his lawsuit, Weakley stated he complained directly to Amazon after several instances in October 2019 in which he said he was pressured to haul loads — using a tractor leased from a company affiliated with AAA — while overly tired and in significant violation of federally required rest breaks.

After acknowledging that a particular haul would violate a required 10-hour rest break, an Amazon official told him to take it up with AAA, and that the load must be picked up and delivered on time.

“Amazon apparently called AAA and expressed its displeasure … because AAA then called Plaintiff back shortly thereafter and scolded him using the harshest of profanities and angrily told Plaintiff that he was to: ‘never call Amazon headquarters again’,” the lawsuit asserts. “AAA then went on to state: ‘Run the load or turn in your keys!’”

Weakley, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, did not return calls for comment. Court records show he has filed lawsuits recently against Sunshine Trucking, Cargo Network Leasing and Celadon.

The allegations against Amazon follow complaints against the company made public last year, notably in a yearlong investigation by BuzzFeed into Amazon’s treatment of contractor delivery drivers in its quest to meet its two-day delivery schedules. The investigation led to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and two other U.S. senators calling on Amazon President and CEO Jeff Bezos to stop doing business with contract delivery drivers that allegedly violate HOS and other federal laws.

The allegations also come after stepped-up complaints of coercion by employers against drivers who feel pressure to violate safety regulations while doing their job.In a letter prompted by concerns from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) urged Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Jim Mullen in December to look into unresolved reports made to the agency of coercion and safety violations.

Tags

John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

23 Comments

  1. I read this story on Business Insider under the title :

    Worked ‘like a rented mule’: A truck driver claims an Amazon contractor forced him to drive for up to 30 hours straight in a new lawsuit

    I’d like to quote a small part :

    “The lawsuit said AAA Freight stressed to Weakley that eschewing safety laws was key to pleasing Amazon, its largest customer. The complaint said that one employee told the trucker that “Amazon is our biggest and best-paying customer so occasionally we have to bend the rules in order to appease them.”

    However , I’m not surprised , I went through this sort of BS myself with another shipper & carrier and I simply quit while telling the owner to go appease the shipper himself .

    This story is just the tip of the iceberg in this can of worms of an industry . It occurs much more often than reported . Some of these poor drivers are abused aplenty , and denigrated if they don’t comply . At least this particular driver is taking a stand and sticking it to them .

      1. Yes but sometimes if can not afford a lawyer you have no choice .I am acting as my own lawyer as I am homeless after a insurance company and a former employer cheated me. You better to take it through the court than not. I am currently at Queen park in Toronto to protest the insurance companies actions and the lack of support for the injured and homeless shelters in Ontario Canada.

  2. I have hauled plenty for Amazon, their trailers and mine, and I can tell you they do not operate like the story above states. They give you plenty of time to make these runs, if one leg, or load cancels you still are paid the full rate, if multiple stop, continue on with either an empty trailer or bobtail, and you are still paid in full. If you do not have the hours, that is not Amazon’s fault, that is the company dispatcher’s fault for not knowing what their drivers have available. This is a carrier issue, with their driver, Amazon has nothing to do with this. This driver sounds like an ambulance chaser.

    Personally, this industry could learn a lot from Amazon, they are quite honestly one of the best outfits I have ever worked with. As far as their rates, yes, there are some good and some that stink to the heavens. That is up to you to take, but in the end, they always treated me extremely well, never had an issue with them.

    1. That has not been our experience with any Big Box shipper. They offer the loads ‘take-it-or-leave-it but we need an answer right now’ basis. We don’t deal with them anymore due to the congestion at their DCs, even with appointments. We’ve had waits of 8 hours, so any profit is eaten up in delay pay to the truck. We don’t need to do this for practice.

      That being said, it seems like poor asset utilization and planning on the carrier’s part. The coercion is definitely from the dispatcher.

  3. It’s unfortunately a common practice. Given how fearful carriers are of retaliation by Amazon – they do anything to keep Amazon happy. Breaking rules is just the tip of the ice berg.

    1. When we simply say no and walk away it doesn’t prevent them from repeating their unethical behavior and doing it to another , and then too another , ad nauseam . This driver is taking a stand . The least we can do is be supportive rather than knock him down for taking that stand . He’s doing the right thing , he’s going after some of their capital . THAT IS WHAT THEY UNDERSTAND ! In my opinion .

  4. I find it very easy to imagine that the driver could have been asked to stretch a bit in order to meet a customer commitment but the 30 hour part? That’s a harder pill for me to swallow.

    Amazon, from my perspective, has no dog in this race. They do not appear to have asked the carrier to operate illegally.

    The Carrier inherits the duty to manage a timely and legal delivery. They may or may not be guilty of asking or telling the driver to stretch the rule but I highly doubt they asked for a 30 hour stretch.

    The driver, assuming that he’s being partially truthful, admits to having violated a wealth of rules and laws. It’s not necessarily fair but it is true that a driver has full responsibility for his or her choices.

    It is unarguably wrong to ask a person to break the law but, by no definition, does being asked negate your fault in agreeing to do it.

    This being the fourth carrier to be brought to suit by this driver, I have a suspicion that the true issues are assigned to the common denominator in this equation…the driver.

    On the other hand, if each time that I drive while less than rested while using current rules is worth $75,000.00, I might be interested in a class action suit….I’m just saying.

    1. Buddy I’ve quit over 20 companies in the past 5 years in this industry ! I could have knocked them all ! I simply knocked one to test the system . It took 9 months to get what I was owed . Walking away from one doesn’t mean another will be any better . They freaking grow like weeds ! They lie and cheat ! You give them a chance out of the benefit of the doubt and then they burn you . Either I’m extremely unlucky or this is happening for a reason to create a change . Due to the BS in this industry I’ve learned quite a bit , and thought about addressing it in a way to prevent others from going through the same crap . An ALLIANCE !

      What are we to do ? Take a freakin’ bat to their heads ? Now that would be uncivilized . So either you face them and take a stand and put them in their place or you walk away and leave another to deal with it . It’s time consuming , however this guy appears to be on a role knocking them back and it’s working for him .

      I chose to advocate uniting and creating a Truck Driver Alliance that would pull the rug from under those who abuse of their power in the industry permanently , while increasing driver compensation in the process .

      To each his/her own , as long as we take a stand and do something rather than just allow others to treat us as they please without retaliating in our defense in some way .

      That’s why labour unions came into the picture . People got fed up and decided to take a stand !

      1. Noble1…. just a heads up from a recruiter/HR view. If you have really quit over 20 companies in the last 5 years… you are having bad luck because the ONLY trucking company who would hire you is a bad one. One look at your application and I would say NOPE, job hopper.
        Also read the article again, the driver clearly has some issues. He has tried suing other companies in the past… more than once.

        1. Do you think I’m stupid ?

          The resume doesn’t show what I know people like you would likely misinterpret , LOL ! Drivers have always been the scapegoat of the industry’s mishap .

          Way ahead of you buddy , way ahead . Now I’ve become extremely picky , and by the likes of you I’d probably walk out within 5 minutes of an interview with your type . I drill you recruiters and feel you out . Some times I’ll take the job anyways , got to make a few bucks , right ? Then when their unethical BS presents itself , I’ll attempt to reason with the person . However , due to having read them well , it’s usually to no avail due to their lack of sense and or unethical desires . Gained tremendous experience hauling all kinds .

          That being said , if you are a straight shooter you wouldn’t fear me leaving you unless you’re not a guy of your word . But then again , you guys tend to be so desperate you’ll just about say anything in an attempt to attract a driver .

          Now I cut out most of the bull . I simply do switches , no waste of time , and on the routes I like and in complete control of my time .

          I’ve always delivered on time before deciding to simply do drop & hook switches , never had a complaint . One of my prior employers I even helped before leaving him and placed his trucks with a carrier to help him avoid bankruptcy . We simply didn’t see eye to eye after giving him multiple chances . I taught him a lot and saved his butt .

          He’s one of my references . Do you think he’d ever speak against me ? LOL ! (wink)

          The most recent employer didn’t obtain the run I wanted , so I gave him a hand doing local switches . Didn’t like it and asked him to replace me . He asked if I can help place a few of his trucks , and I will . Unfortunately one carrier I spoke to today for him is looking to push crap runs on brokers and keep the switches for their drivers .

          Most people I meet don’t even want a reference . They go by their judgement and since I’m a nice person with a good head on my shoulders I never had a problem getting hired .

          It’s just a question of time before I place his trucks . You see , I don’t have a problem getting along , I’m just very picky and see through the BS and don’t bend to it . You carriers & brokers are a dime a dozen and you’re expendable ! LOL !

          Best of luck in your recruitment !

          1. I just called another , and rather than answering his phone , the recruiter texted me and asked me to text him . That’s unprofessional and it indicates I’d probably be dealing with a clown .

            So next week I’ll change my game plan and start cold calling shippers directly and bypass carriers . I know a few who pay well and have dedicated runs .

    2. I can tell you I have went more than 36 hours without any sleep. Sometimes I can do that safely Other times I am tired after 7 or 8 hours. Less than a year after getting my truck drivers permit . The trucking company out of Cambridge Ont told to drive from Montreal to Cambridge after I had got 2 hours sleep in the previous 28 hours then cheated me on my pay. It happened a lot more than you think by some dispatch working for large trucking companies.

      1. Then these clowns wonder why there’s a high turnover rate . They want people they can take advantage of and that will bend over with a smile while they do . Then when you stand up to them and give them the proverbial middle finger , you have recruiters like HR Steel that blame the driver for not putting up with their BS , ROTFLMAO !

        What’s even funnier is that these guys think we’re stupid enough to show them all our cards in this poker game . That funny one doesn’t seem to realize that a resume is created by its creator . Just show enough to draw their attention which they can verify which caters to their desires . They don’t need to know our life stories . Just enough to occupy their minds and to bend to our will . After all , we’re in the business of selling ourselves too .

        All I tell them is that I’m a person of my word and I keep it ,and that my goal is to render them profitable and enjoy the process while acting responsibly in my duties , which is the truth . They can call anyone they please on the resume . Always put a company on that resume where you quit due to them attempting to force you to cheat your log book and tell them . This way you’re sending them a very clear message . Invite them to call that company as well to verify . I do . It just so happens to be the first one I worked for years ago in car hauling .

        I don’t have to tell them every detail of my life ., and by not doing so it doesn’t render me a liar . Too much info for their minds can be hazardous , LOL ! I tell them what I judge they need to know on a need to know basis .

        Most in this business are not so bright . They’re not street smart . They believe what they read without realizing who the author is , LOL !

        Whatever they tell me I take with a grain of salt and test them . Always test them and the moment they fail , don’t give them a second occasion , otherwise they’ll just burn you twice and then you’ll only have yourself to blame .

        In my humble opinion …………

  5. The ELD industry spent millions to regulate we must purchase their product on the false claims of safety. This is yet another example of how ELD’s, or anything a company uses, can be cheated for economic gain. I saw this with big company trucks logging off duty time at the dock when we had to count the freight. Probably one of the easiest ways to cheat. If the government cared, they’d require all shippers and receivers to have time clocks when a driver enters their property to clock in and out. Require drivers log it as on duty time, and customers pay a minimum $75 an hour detention to the carrier! That would stop much of the cheating. But until an industry gets behind it and pays the politicians millions of dollars, nothing will happen. It’s not about safety, it’s about $$$ and how many politicians you’re willing to pay.

    1. The solution is overtime pay and a fair wage. E logs can be changed when the company wants to but not when you want go to Costco to shop or park.

  6. I am a long haul driver for Amazon through a 3rd party company. I can confirm this is 100% true. My company expects me to run illegal when Amazon is short of drivers. It’s happened to me quite a few times.

    Trucking as a career has a lot of unique problems in general but having to run when you are out of hours should not be one of them placed on the drivers back. It opens up a host of potential problems such as driving fatigued, in trouble with the DOT and even worse injuring yourself or others.

  7. IM LOOKING FOR OTHER EX AAA DRIVERS BECAUSE IM TAKING AAA FREIGHT INC TO COURT ALL THEY DO IS TAKE THEY TOOK MY WHOLE 2500 ESCROW CHARGING ME TWO FULL EXTRA TRUCK LEASE WHEN I WAS TOLD I WILL NOT BE CHARGE BECAUSE I WASNT TAKING THE TRUCK HOME FOR HOMETIME

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