Long Haul Trucking Means Better Prices For Consumers, But Drivers Suffer Low Wages
The stuff that you buy in stores, close food electronics almost all of it got there on a truck long haul trucking is getting cheaper and that's good for consumers. It means stuff is cheaper, but it's not so good for truck drivers because this is happening at their expense. Here's Keith Romer from planet money. In two thousand, seventeen Kimberly Sikorski decided she was going to become a trucker she called Prime Inc. no relation to Amazon prime because they offered free training prime seemed eager to have her literally I think I called on Thursday night and they were ready to buy me a greyhound ticket for Sunday to start on Monday Sikorsky took classes and drove with a trainer for three months. But before she could go out on her own, she had a choice to make your given the option to either be accompanied driver or a lease operator option one she's a regular old. Employees. Paid based on how many miles she drives option to. She gets to be her own boss. She'd have to lease a truck through prime but then after expenses she would share of whatever her loads brought in in the form of a weekly check from prime. They say if you're not stupid and you're not lazy then you make a lot more money being released operator and you're Kinda dumb if you pass that up. So Secorski chose option to she picked out her truck finance through prime a brand new blue freightliner that she named Sapphire. Then she hit the road. But when she started receiving her weekly checks, something didn't seem right a lot of times when I'm expecting to see a check for a couple of thousand dollars, I'm getting a bill for like two hundred dollars or five hundred dollars or fifteen hundred dollars a bill before Secorski got her cut prime deducted truck payment's insurance equipment cost and primes percentage as a broker also for an independent contractor it sure felt like she worked for prime. So they say that you're not their employees but you're. Completely bound to them. You're not allowed to take loads from anyone else. You're not allowed to ask for different loads than what they're giving you. Secorski works seventy hour weeks for six months at the end of it. She had earned just nine thousand dollars. It got to the point where I would be sitting in my truck crying because I'd be afraid to buy a hotdog when it gets to the point of your electricity being shut off and your grocery bill not being able to be paid. There has to be something better finally she quit. Steve Sally a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania specializes in the industry. He says that four higher long haul trucking has become a commodity and customers only really care about price. The way that the market has been constructed requires that you compete on the cost of labor getting Sikorsky to lease a truck from prime and then work as an independent contractor. That's a standard part of the business model for a lot of trucking companies. Now, like having a, you know a truck for free an paying the driver less than you would have to pay an employee. Some of those drivers though have started to push back in recent years there's been a wave of class actions lawsuits against some of the. Biggest long-haul companies in July Kimberly Sikorsky's old company prime settled a lawsuit in which it was accused of Miss classifying its employees and violating minimum wage laws. Prime did not admit wrongdoing as part of its settlement and they declined to be interviewed for this story. But in an emailed statement, a lawyer for prime wrote quote, we have thousands of highly successful independent contractors and company drivers who thrive within our business model. The class action that was settled is completely unrelated to Miss Sikorsky's allegations. The litigation was seemingly endless and was best resolved as part of that settlement forty thousand former drivers for prime are eligible for a share of twenty, eight, million dollars, which means it's like seven hundred dollars a person. Does that seem like enough? No Honestly It's kind of laughable. Kimberly Sikorski is driving for a different company now and this time she's an employee Keith Romer NPR news.