By Jena Williams

Recently a Washington truck driver shared with me his belief that most collisions caused by truck drivers were the fault of those paid by percentage of revenue or load, rather than by the hour. He believes companies that do business this way are inherently more dangerous to work for and he will not work for this type of company.

Research shows and the Washington State Patrol agrees that the majority of commercial vehicle involved collisions are actually caused by other motorists. However, studies also confirm the truck driver’s theory that the collisions caused by commercial vehicles (including single vehicle incidents) are more likely to be caused by drivers who are paid by the trip or load.*

Why would paid by the load be more dangerous? In a report to the U.S. House of Representatives, Michael Belzer outlines the risks and cuts that drivers, especially independent owner/operators, must take to stay profitable in this competitive industry. Since they are not paid for time spent loading or unloading or waiting to deliver, their time must be made up on the road.

Now, it’s a fact that commercial drivers are safer than the general motoring public – the rate is 1.22 for large trucks in fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles verses 1.33 for passenger vehicles, so I’m definitely not putting down their skills. And what they do is absolutely vital to our economy….If you’ve got it, a truck brought it!

My goal is to find a way to make the job safer so you can come home to your families at the end of a run. Here we have an injury trend, a path to choose: one way we know is safer, the other way is more dangerous…Is the dangerous path worth the extra money? Should we as a society do something to make the safe path profitable? What is it that needs to be done?

So, what do we as an industry do about this? If we truly believe that the safety of drivers and other motorists is more important that the almighty dollar, should we change how things are done? Is even one life worth making a change?

Do any companies out there have success stories that they’d like to share?

What are driver’s experiences in relation to this issue?

What can be done to keep the industry profitable AND increase safety?

*Studies confirming payment type impacts the likelihood of collisions:

Monaco, K and Williams, E. “Assessing the Determinants of Safety in the Trucking Industry.” Journal of Transportation and Statistics. April 2000, p. 6.

Belzer, M. H. “The Economics of Safety: How Compensation Affects Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Safety.” Presented to United States House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, July 11, 2012.

Quinlan, M. and Wright, L. “Remuneration and Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry: A Review Undertaken for the National Transport Commission.” Report Prepared for the National Transport Commission, Melbourne, October 2008.

Info for passenger vehicles:

FMCSA Share the Road:


Fatality data per million miles driven: