Driver abuse complaints continue to follow Amazon

A Tennessee truck driver alleged he was coerced into violating federal hours-of-service (HOS) laws while hauling freight for Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN] through his employer, leading to injuries he sustained after crashing his truck.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington state, where Amazon is based, Timothy Weakley claims Amazon and his employer, South Holland, Illinois-based AAA Freight Inc., “worked [Weakley] into the ground like a rented mule,” intentionally depriving him of sleep.

To hide Amazon and AAA’s alleged negligence, Weakley asserted, AAA routinely edited his electronic logbook entries so that law enforcement or the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) “would be none the wiser.”

Weakley, who has filed lawsuits against several other trucking companies, is seeking damages that include pain and suffering, loss of earnings and earning capacity, and medical bills. He alleges his damages exceed $75,000. 

AAA Freight “is one of thousands of companies we contract with to move inventory around the country,” Amazon stated in response to the allegations. “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.”

David Henry, AAA Freight’s CFO, told FreightWaves he declined to comment “until after our investigation into the matter is complete.”

In his lawsuit, Weakley stated he complained directly to Amazon after several instances in October 2019 in which he said he was pressured to haul loads — using a tractor leased from a company affiliated with AAA — while overly tired and in significant violation of federally required rest breaks.

After acknowledging that a particular haul would violate a required 10-hour rest break, an Amazon official told him to take it up with AAA, and that the load must be picked up and delivered on time.

“Amazon apparently called AAA and expressed its displeasure … because AAA then called Plaintiff back shortly thereafter and scolded him using the harshest of profanities and angrily told Plaintiff that he was to: ‘never call Amazon headquarters again’,” the lawsuit asserts. “AAA then went on to state: ‘Run the load or turn in your keys!’”

Weakley, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, did not return calls for comment. Court records show he has filed lawsuits recently against Sunshine Trucking, Cargo Network Leasing and Celadon.

The allegations against Amazon follow complaints against the company made public last year, notably in a yearlong investigation by BuzzFeed into Amazon’s treatment of contractor delivery drivers in its quest to meet its two-day delivery schedules. The investigation led to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and two other U.S. senators calling on Amazon President and CEO Jeff Bezos to stop doing business with contract delivery drivers that allegedly violate HOS and other federal laws.

The allegations also come after stepped-up complaints of coercion by employers against drivers who feel pressure to violate safety regulations while doing their job.In a letter prompted by concerns from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) urged Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Jim Mullen in December to look into unresolved reports made to the agency of coercion and safety violations.