Coordinated coercion?

Civil lawsuit filed against Amazon, freight partner

March-April 2020

Greg Grisolano

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A Tennessee trucker’s lawsuit accuses Amazon and one of its freight partners of coercing him and having “worked (him) into the ground” for weeks in the lead-up to the crash that injured him.

Driver Timothy Weakley filed the civil complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Jan. 15. Weakley filed the lawsuit against shipping giant Amazon and one of its freight partners – Chicago-based AAA Freight – claiming they coerced him into working in excess of the hours-of-service regulations.

Weakley claims he was injured after crashing into a concrete barrier at 8:30 p.m. last Halloween on eastbound Interstate 26 while on his way from a delivery in Cleveland, Tenn., to his home in Johnson City, Tenn.

ELD edits alleged

The suit claims that AAA would “routinely edit” Weakley’s electronic logging device to make it look like he was operating within hours-of-service regulations “so that law enforcement or the Department of Transportation would be none the wiser.” The complaint also alleges that Amazon knew – or should have known – about the tampering because it requires its drivers to have an app on their phone that tracks their movements “down to the millisecond” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Weakley’s lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 for medical expenses, loss of revenue, and loss of his tractor.

The complaint states that Weakley was hired by AAA on or about May 4, 2019, as a leased operator, assigned to the company’s Amazon division. The lawsuit claims Amazon and AAA “routinely coerced” him into driving as long as 20 or 30 hours with only an hour or two of rest. It also claims that when Weakley tried to complain he was told by his supervisor that the company sometimes has to bend the rules to appease Amazon and that if he couldn’t do it he should turn in his truck and find a new line of work.

The lawsuit alleges a repeated pattern of coercion led to Weakley working multiple shifts prior to the crash in excess of 19, 21, and 25 consecutive hours, in violation of federal regulations.

Extreme fatigue

On Oct. 29, Weakley allegedly told AAA he was in an “extreme state of fatigue and suffering insomnia and depression due to the sheer lack of sleep,” and that he planned to take his 34-restart to recover.

But the lawsuit claims that Weakley only got 14 hours into his rest break before he was once again dispatched to pick up a load, and that he was given an ultimatum – either pick up the load or return his truck and trailer and find a new job. Weakley agreed to take the load, which required delivery in Cleveland on the morning of Oct. 31.

As of early February, Amazon and AAA had not filed formal responses with the court. An Amazon spokesperson provided a statement about the allegations.

“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,” the statement reads. LL

Read about another Amazon case involving truckers here.

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.