Sunday, October 29, 2006

KEEP ON TRUCKING

Occasionally a reader sends me a question for which the answer seems obvious. Take the guy who gets a speeding ticket while driving a company car, on company time, and wants to know whether he or his employer is responsible for paying the ticket.

It doesn't take an ethicist to know, right off, that it's the driver who's responsible for paying. His employer didn't break the law -- he did, and he should be held accountable.

The question has always seemed black-and-white to me, with little room for argument. As with many things, however, even this question can fall into an area tinged with gray.

A reader from Orange County, Calif., writes that he recently received a speeding ticket for going 63 mph in a 55-mph zone while driving his employer's tractor/trailer vehicle. The reader explained to his employer that he always sets the cruise control to 55 miles per hour, so he knows that he was not speeding, but his boss replied bluntly that he does not pay speeding tickets.

This wasn't good enough for my reader, who considers himself a careful driver: "In almost 30 years of commercial driving," he writes, "I had never gotten a speeding ticket."

Convinced that something must be wrong somewhere, he took the truck to a garage -- on his own time and at his own expense -- to have it checked out.

"The shop found that the speedometer was out of calibration by 8 miles per hour!" he writes.

As a result, my reader now takes his GPS unit with him and checks the speedometer on every truck he drives.

"I have found that many of the trucks have inaccurate speedometers," he says, "and have written them up."

The employer is legally and ethically bound to ensure that the company's trucks are safe to be on the road. My reader wants to know if the employer has the same obligation to ensure that the speedometers are correct.

"Is he responsible for speeding tickets we receive when they are out of calibration?" he asks.

The employer absolutely is responsible for making sure that all of the equipment on every company truck works. Besides earning a driver an unfair ticket, a speedometer that's out of whack also could endanger other drivers on the road -- although I'd like to think that a seasoned truck driver would know to drive carefully, regardless of what his speedometer says.

If the employer has not checked the accuracy of the truck's speedometer and a driver receives a speeding ticket as a result, it's the employer's responsibility to pay the ticket.

The right thing for the employer to do is not only to pay the speeding ticket, but also to reimburse my reader for the expenses he incurred in having the truck's speedometer checked. The employer should also check the accuracy of the speedometers on his entire fleet of trucks.

It's fine and good to hold employees personally responsible for their actions while on the job, but employers must likewise take responsibility when it's their carelessness that causes a problem.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

shame on you for such bad advice.

a person who travels for a living does not need a speeding violation on their record when they are not personally at fault.

that they do not deserve it, and the wrong calibration is a defense to the ticket. truck drivers' licenses can be quickly affected by speeding violations and they can even lose their livelihood.

so, what the trucking co. should have paid for was the cost of the calibration test and an attorney if needed in the locale where the ticket was obtained--in many locations, a letter with the
evidence (proof of calibration inaccuracy by the exact amount that the driver was over the limit) would be sufficient to dismiss the ticket.

if it is in a jurisdiction that the driver can personally resolve the problem, the the co. also owes for the lost wages during the time it takes to get the dismissal.

ethics of the situation is less important in this situation than the correct legal advice.

Cathy Worley

matthew.ruff said...

As a Trucker Speeding Ticket Defense Attorney I see this all the time. Unfortunately some judges are not very receptive. My advice is hire a lawyer and fight the ticket.

Is employer responsible for expense if I might leave?

Every couple of years, Lil (not her real name, but let's call her "Lil") has to renew her professional license with her s...