Although we hate to be the bearer of bad news, if you look online about truckers being stranded by their employer, you will quickly realize this is not an uncommon experience. Sadly and all-too-commonly, driver’s will end up hours away from home with a broken-down truck and no way to get home to their families for the night. The employer ends up doing a whole lot of nothing, and people hop onto their trusted forums to query – is this even legal!?
Can a trucking company leave a driver standard? Sadly, yes, they absolutely can and will leave a driver stranded. This is not to say all trucking companies would, but there is no standard, regulation, nor legal requirement against this. Employers are well within their rights to leave you stranded without return transportation.
Although this business practice is not ethical, moral, or kind – it is legal. When an employer has one mission in mind, it won’t always result in every driver being catered to or even put up in a hotel for the night when their truck breaks down or that mission is completed. We will cover the legalities behind it, thoughts from professional truckers, and what you can do as a driver to take back control of the situation!
Can a Trucking Company Leave a Driver Stranded?
If you work for a truck company in California but you’ve driven out to a job in New York and they fire you, there will be no parting gift or transportation included to fly you back to Cali.
It is not infrequent for companies to route a driver towards the nearest drop-off terminal and then leave the driver to fend for themselves. Some argue this is why drivers are told not to pack very much because this is standard procedure.
You will commonly read about drivers being stranded in the case of:
- A broken-down truck and no way to get home
- A job being completed but no return ride booked
- Truck being collected after an employee is fired
- Truck being repossessed and the employee left without food or shelter
Now, we don’t generalize here, and this is a safe place. So this is not to say that all trucking companies would strand their employees or even a lot of trucking companies. This is not a bash piece on the trucking industry because most of them run a swell business and wouldn’t leave their drivers in the middle of nowhere.
However, when you look into the subject, you realize that drivers are being stranded by their employers much more frequently than you may imagine. Not only is it common, it’s so common that people are being forced to rationalize it and normalize the stranding as ‘A-Okay,’ or, ‘just part of the job,’ to name a couple of popular defenses from truckers.
You would think there would be more backlash to this, yet everyone’s response to it seems to be, ‘yup, companies can do whatever they want and that’s just the way it is.’
Legalities Behind Stranding Your Drivers
According to recently updated federal laws, employers cannot fire, demote, or discriminate against an employee based on race, religion, disability, or gender.
However, then there’s right-to-work—you have the right to work and they have the right to fire you, as long as it’s not illegal. Most states have such laws. And it’s not hard for employers to find a “legal” way to fire you. And before you know it, you’re fired.
No written warning. No ride home!
Or, as a trucker wrote:
“employer left me in Georgia… had to find me and my wife a way home. I have since found out that he has done this to a couple other drivers. I should have done my homework on the company.”
What Trucking Companies Cannot Legally Do
Yes, trucking companies can get away with leaving a driver stranded, and there is no state or federal law that will tell them otherwise.
However, some of the things they legally cannot do to their drivers are:
- Charge them high fees for truck damage or minor accidents. Some states take it a little further and don’t allow companies to garnish wages for anything that isn’t tax-related or court-ordered.
- Expect you as the driver to pay for gas
- Expect you as the driver to cover maintenance on a company truck.
- Expect you to drive a truck:
- That is broken down/not functional
- In hazardous weather
- By violating legal speed limits
- If you are ill, fatigued, or incapacitated
You can read more about your rights as a trucker and what your company cannot and legally should not be doing to you here.
There is a lot the trucking employers cannot do to their employees, and with laws like the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), it is truly surprising that we haven’t yet created a law against stranding drivers.
There is a lot of advice out there to abandon your truck if your trucking company wants to abandon you. This is terrible advice and internet trolls say, ‘there is no law against this, and your employer cannot press charges.’ That is 100% untrue, and you are a daft-fool if you believe your employer won’t press charges against you for abandoning the vehicle.
They can abandon you, but you can’t abandon the truck, capiche?!
What Drivers Can Do
I hate to give you hope because alas, there is not much you can do about this at the moment besides strikes and patience.
Some tips for the driver-party in this scenario and some words of wisdom are:
- Do your research on truck companies – This will be the best plan-of-action! Do not sign on with a company that does not have your best interest at heart. With resources like Glassdoor, where you can read up on each company before agreeing to an interview, it is incredibly simple to do your research and know what you’re getting yourself into. If everyone says they’re being left 10 hours from home on a regular basis, maybe steer clear of that company?
- Talk to your employer – perhaps some drivers in your company have earned the right to have hotel and return-transportation included in their wages. If you want to do something about it, take action. There are truckers protesting all around the states due to wages that total less than minimum wage after this breed of expenses. You can request a pay-raise or get your pitchfork out and strike with the best of them!
- Accept that this is common – this is an agreed-upon woe of all drivers that commonly tell tales of waiting 12+ hours after a drop-off and sitting out in the snow, feeling miserable, and waiting for that greyhound bus home. You can’t expect them to put every driver up in a Four Seasons every trip, and even if you do expect it, you’ll be left sorely disappointed. Unfortunately, you may have to accept that this is the way things are right now if you want to remain in the trucking industry or find a drop-off trucking location that is feasible/remains local.
If you can’t accept those terms, no one will blame you. But it might be time to find a new line of work.
Final Words of Wisdom
I think we can all agree that leaving an employee stranded is wrong but that doesn’t change the reality that it still happens. Researching the companies and how ethical their practices are will be the best line of defense against this practice.
You can do something about it, make sure you do what your employer wants, or get your own rig. Then the only person who will strand you is yourself—if you run out of fuel.