A trucking company whose predatory truck lease scheme forced drivers to work illegally long hours, fired a driver after he shared his story with USA Today.
Rene Flores, a trucker from Southern California, was interviewed by USA Today for a story that exposed how port trucking companies forced drivers to purchase trucks so they would owe their employers money. A day after the story was published, on June 17, Flores was fired by Morgan Southern — a trucking company that operates out of the Los Angeles, CA, port.
USA Today’s Brett Murphey explained in the original article:
“A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.”
Flores detailed his experience working for Morgan Southern and it was not exactly a shining endorsement. After signing up for the truck lease program, Flores’s wages dropped and he had “no choice” but to work longer hours. Flores told Murphey he regularly drove 20 hours nonstop. Truck drivers are legally required to take a 10-hour break after 14-hour shifts.
Here’s an especially brutal excerpt from the original story:
“On bad weeks — when Flores hits traffic or gets assigned a low-paying delivery — he says he takes home $300 or less for 100 hours of work. That translates into $3 an hour, less than a third of what he could make washing dishes at California’s minimum wage.”
Flores was sure that his managers at Morgan Southern knew how many hours he worked: “Of course they know. But the company doesn’t care.” Even though electronic monitors supposedly track drivers’ hourly distance, Flores said he simply turned it off and kept a fake log book in his glove box in case he was stopped for inspection.
The only reason drivers continue to drive can only be described as extortion: they’ve been paying to lease their trucks and if they quit their money is not returned. So when Flores was fired in mid-June, you guessed it, the $60,000 he paid Morgan Southern in leasing fees over four years was not returned, nor was he able to keep the truck (he would have owned it in 10 months) because he couldn’t afford the remaining balance.
“The fact that he stated that in his interview, we had no choice to terminate his lease.” Milane said. “He brought this on himself.”
Flores, a father of two sons whom he barely saw while working for Morgan Southern, almost certainly did not bring “this on himself.” Flores was bullied by managers into signing a pay-for-lease contract that basically chained him to both the company and a truck he would have to work years to own.