A truck driver sued Amazon and one of its freight partners, alleging the companies “worked (him) into the ground,” for several weeks, eventually causing him to fall asleep at the wheel and crash.
Timothy Weakley of Tennessee claims in the lawsuit that Amazon and AAA Freight, a Chicago-area trucking company, forced him to work long shifts without legally mandated breaks. With Amazon’s knowledge, AAA doctored his logs to conceal the violations, the suit alleges.
Weakley was assigned to AAA’s “Amazon Division,” according to the suit, primarily hauling freight for the tech giant. Amazon knew what was happening because of its “sophisticated freight tracking application” that “tracked Plaintiff’s movements down to the millisecond 24/7 so long as it was installed on his cellular phone.”
Federal law says a driver can be on duty for 14 hours straight after coming off 10 hours of rest, but only 11 of those hours can be driving. The lawsuit describes four different cases over a 17-day period in October 2019, where Weakley was ordered to work longer than 14 hours without the required breaks.
“In an escalating pattern of reckless disregard for federal law … Amazon and AAA routinely coerced plaintiff into driving for unlawfully extended periods of time lasting as long as 20-30 hours or more with only an hour or two of rest.”
Amazon declined to comment in response to GeekWire’s inquiry. AAA did not respond to our request for comment. Update, Jan. 22: Here’s a statement from Amazon:
“AAA Freight is one of thousands of companies we contract with to move inventory around the country. 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.”
When Weakley protested his alleged treatment, he claims AAA threatened his job. In one instance, when Weakley was assigned to pick up cargo from one of the tech giant’s warehouses, he claims he was told “Amazon needs this route covered tonight because of increased volume.”
Weakley then contacted Amazon to tell the company he was out of hours. The tech giant allegedly deflected and told him to take it up with the carrier. Then Amazon asked if he would be on time. Weakley alleges Amazon called AAA to complain about his tone.
Amazon has steadily expanded its shipping ambitions, first with two-day delivery through Amazon Prime and then with its shift to a one-day turnaround in 2019. In response to these tighter shipping deadlines, the tech giant steadily expanded its logistics network. In December, Amazon said its fleet of tractor-trailers now numbers 20,000, double the amount the company had around the same time last year.
Amazon has faced scrutiny for working conditions of drivers scrambling to make quick delivery turnarounds. Pilots flying cargo jets leased to Amazon protested at the company’s annual meeting last year to shine a light on safety and staffing issues.
On Oct. 29, Weakley told AAA he was in an “extreme state of fatigue and suffering insomnia and depression due to the sheer lack of sleep,” according to the suit. He planned to take a 34-hour break to recover.
But just 14 hours into the break, he was called to run a load from St. Louis to Tennessee. After dropping off his cargo, Weakley was then dispatched to another location. At 10:30 p.m. that night, Weakley fell asleep at the wheel, crashing his truck into a concrete barrier, the suit says.
Weakley faces significant medical expenses, loss of his business and income as a result of the crash, according to the suit. Weakley is seeking damages covering his physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, subsequent medical care and loss of earnings.
Here’s the full lawsuit:
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the federal truck driving laws about hours worked per day.