- A truck driver who moves Amazon packages is suing the mega-retailer and his employer, AAA Freight, which contracts with Amazon.
- In the lawsuit, the truck driver alleged that both companies worked him “into the ground like a rented mule” and “intentionally deprived” him of sleep.
- It’s the latest in a slew of trucking lawsuits in recent years demanding that companies provide better rest breaks. Federal courts have ordered Walmart and big names like Pam Transport to pay for these breaks.
- Still, this lawsuit takes a different tone – and it adds to the allegations that Amazon’s logistics empire slights safety for profits.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Yet another truck driver is challenging their employer, accusing the company of violating labor laws.
And this time it’s the retailer turned trucker Amazon that’s getting slammed with a lawsuit.
On January 15, a truck driver named Timothy Weakley filed a civil complaint against Amazon and AAA Freight, which is based near Chicago and contracts with Amazon, accusing them of violating the hours-of-service regulations mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, the federal agency that regulates safety rules for commercial drivers.
Weakley, who joined AAA Freight in May and was assigned to the company’s Amazon division, alleged that he was forced to work 20- to 30-hour shifts with rest breaks lasting one to two hours.
He said in the lawsuit that the companies worked him “into the ground like a rented mule” and “intentionally deprived” him of sleep.
When contacted by Business Insider, a representative from AAA Freight had no comment on the lawsuit.
An Amazon representative said the company was investigating Weakley’s claims.
“AAA Freight is one of thousands of companies we contract with to move inventory around the country,” the representative said in a statement. “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.”
Under the FMCSA regulations, truck drivers may be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours in a day, with a maximum of 11 hours spent driving. Trucks are equipped with an electronic logging device that indicates when a driver needs to go on their rest break, sending notifications to the driver and their employer.
However, Weakley alleged that AAA Freight ignored those notifications and “remotely edited” his ELD data. He also said Amazon, which tracks drivers through a phone app, did not ensure he was getting regular rest breaks.
The truck driver said that when he pushed back on taking on the illegal loads, an AAA Freight employee told him on a phone call to follow the rules or “turn your truck in and find a new line of work more suitable for laziness.” Weakley said that in another call, an AAA employee told him, “You and your smart-ass mouth and disrespectful attitude just nearly got banned from Amazon for life.”
The lawsuit said everything culminated on October 31 when Weakley fell asleep at the wheel at 8:30 p.m. after an illegally short rest break en route to an Amazon job in Tennessee and was seriously injured.
A warning sign of Amazon’s hold on the trucking industry
Scores of truck drivers have challenged their employers in recent years on the FMCSA’s rulemaking on rest breaks.
Unlike workers who are paid per hour or in a yearly salary, long-haul truck drivers are typically paid per mile of driving. However, they spend weeks on the road for work and hours every day doing non-driving work tasks, which are usually never compensated.
But this complaint against Amazon strikes a different tone. Previous suits have interrogated whether federal labor laws apply to the trucking industry; what Weakley alleges is that Amazon’s contractors are ignoring safety laws that definitively apply to truck drivers.
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.”
Amazon is rapidly in-housing its transportation network, particularly around trucking. It acquired more than 10,000 branded trailers in 2015 and then an undisclosed number of branded tractors last year.
- Wolfe Research; Andy Kiersz/Business Insider
It’s providing new jobs for truckers, but many drivers aren’t pleased with how Amazon compensates. Amazon’s rates posted on its brokerage service are 18.4% lower on average than rates posted on DAT, one of the largest broker boards in the country.
And companies that were initially keen to make Amazon a big customer have found themselves reeling as the company quickly changes its transportation strategy.
Last year, XPO Logistics, the top logistics company in the US by revenue in 2018, found that it had to slash $600 million in expected revenue when Amazon curtailed its business with it by two-thirds.
New England Motor Freight, whose 2017 revenue totaled $402 million, unexpectedly closed in 2019. Some analysts pointed to the loss of that company’s Amazon business. “Amazon contracts are pretty demanding,” Satish Jindel, the SJ Consulting Group’s principal consultant, told Business Insider at the time.
The new lawsuit also points to other safety problems at Amazon’s growing logistics empire, adding to allegations that Amazon’s last-mile-delivery network has opted for profits over safety. An investigation by BuzzFeed News and ProPublica last year found that an Amazon delivery van even killed Joy Covey, Amazon’s former chief financial officer.
And pilots at Amazon’s contract air-cargo companies have alleged that the company does not provide proper training or have rigorous hiring standards. Three pilots died in February when an Amazon Air pilot crashed outside of Houston.
Are you a truck driver for Amazon? Email the reporter at email@example.com