Becoming a long haul or over the road (OTR) truck driver is usually a conscious decision or a requirement to get the needed experience to get a local CDL job. Regardless of the reason, OTR truck driving requires a lifestyle change. Being a long-haul truck driver requires compromises to be made in many areas of the driver’s life which most people take for granted. One example of this would be figuring out the process and laws related to jury duty service and how they apply to the over the road truck driving profession.
For most Americans being a registered voter with a driver’s license means eligibility for jury duty selection. Certain groups of citizens are exempt or may be excused from jury duty even though they are otherwise qualified. Typically, citizens are aware if they are exempt or can likely be excused. However, certain careers such as over the road truck driving leads to some confusion related to jury duty such as what to expect from the process, and the response from the company.
Below, we’ll cover what you can expect when you receive the letter that you’ve been selected to serve as a member of a jury. We’ll also cover whether or not it’s something you can get excused from due to the requirements of your career.
Jury duty selection and processes
Notice of jury duty begins when a mailed summons to appear at the county courthouse is received. The summons is addressed to the individual selected for jury duty with information on the place, date, and time expected for them to report in person for this important civil responsibility. Sometimes a phone number or other information related to jury duty service is included on the summons as well.
The initial jury duty selection resulting in a summons being mailed is a completely random process from the pool of eligible citizens. These citizens are licensed drivers and registered voters residing in the county where the trial is set to take place. This helps ensure there is a fair representation of the community represented on the final jury.
The place noted on the summons is called the jury assembly area. Jurors report to this area, find a seat, and begin filling out any forms provided. Judges often come in to verify potential jurors appearing meet the minimum qualifications for jury duty participation. The minimum requirements for potential jurors are they are residents of the county, do not have any felony charges, and have not served as a federal juror during a specified period. Then potential jurors are sometimes divided into groups and seated according to their juror number.
Once jurors are seated the lawyers and judge begin the jury selection process called voir dire which means to tell the truth in French. General details of the case are given during this process, because the main purpose is to reduce the number of potential jurors.
Each lawyer is usually given one hour to question potential jurors about their life experiences and beliefs in relation to the case being tried. The lawyers are trying to determine if potential jurors have biases or beliefs that could potentially affect the outcome of the case being tried. Once this phase of jury selection is completed some jurors may meet privately with the judge.
In the next phase lawyers use their strikes in order to reduce the number of potential jurors. There are two types of strikes a lawyer is able to use. These strikes are known as for cause and peremptory strikes. The for cause strike is used when a potential juror expressed biases or beliefs strong enough to result in disqualification during voir dire. Peremptory strikes are strikes that can be used for any reason except race of the potential juror and each lawyer receives a certain number of this type strike.
A Batson challenge may be issued If the opposing lawyer feels a peremptory strike was used for a racial reason. When this occurs, the stricken juror is usually seated on the final jury selection for the trial.
Exemptions and excuses.
Fire and police department personnel, active duty military, and government officials at the local, state, or federal levels are the only groups of otherwise eligible citizens exempt from jury duty regardless of circumstances according to the website uscourts.gov. Jurors can make a request to be excused from jury duty based on some situations. Nursing mothers, anyone who has recently served as a federal juror, or those facing severe hardship due to jury duty service are likely to be excused under most circumstances.
An over the road truck driver has a good chance of being excused from jury duty service for a variety of different reasons. Long haul truck drivers are usually able to avoid jury duty due to the nature of their job. In fact, there’s even a possibility an over the road truck driver may not even meet residency requirements because they spend much more time on the road than they do at home.
On average most drivers on long haul routes are only home four to six days or less each month but can be on the road anywhere from two weeks to a month or more. Considering this comment makes a logical suggestion it is likely that a judge would be required to make the determination of residency for each individual case in this situation.
Other issues long distance drivers face when they are served a summons to appear for jury duty is an often-unpredictable schedule and the considerable distance from home traveled while on duty. Another concern is jury selection alone could cause a major financial burden for an OTR driver with a family.
The reason participation could cause such a financial hardship is that most OTR drivers would need to take off work anywhere from several days to several weeks or more. This is due to drivers being away from home for long periods of time.
Most potential jurors continue to work while being on call, because they are able to return to the court house if they receive a call saying they are needed. However, this is seldom an option for a long-haul truck driver. The only way continuing to work would be an option is if the drivers company has a local terminal and the driver is able to arrange for a temporary local position for the duration of their jury duty service.
Most states offer jury pay, though the amount of compensation can range from $5 to $50 depending on the state in which a juror serves. Federal jury duty pay is $50 to $60 daily for with additional reimbursement available for transportation and parking. An allowance for food and lodging is made available for federal jurors required to stay overnight for one or more nights.
While a few states do not offer any form of compensation other states require employers to continue paying normal wages of an employee who is serving as a juror. The states where no compensation is offered creates a situation in which potential jurors likely face major financial hardship when serving for jury duty.
When participating in the jury duty process any company must hold the position of a full-time employee for the entire duration of jury duty service. Depending on the state in which the driver resides the company may also be required to pay the employee some or all their regular pay provided they meet certain conditions.
Some companies provide paid time off when an employee is absent due to being selected for jury duty. However, most trucking companies require a truck be cleaned out if a driver is going to be away from the truck for more than 3 days. This would mean the chances of being able to keep the same truck is unlikely. This could also potentially result in a great deal of additional work for the driver.
Cleaning out an OTR driver’s truck could be a full day or more of work by itself, due to OTR drivers spend considerably more time in their trucks than they anywhere else. These truck drivers usually have refrigerators, microwaves, televisions, and any number of other things on their trucks in order to be comfortable during their downtime while on the road. Then when the return to work they must repeat this process while moving into another truck.
Another factor to consider when determining the extent of hardship that could be cause would be looking at is whether the driver is an owner operator, solo, team, or company driver and the number of people dependent on the income of the driver,
There are many factors to consider when trying to determine if an OTR driver will be excused from jury duty. Though they are not one of the exempt groups of citizens they are likely to be granted a request to be excused from jury duty due to the number of conflicts and possible hardships that could arise from serving as a juror. Most issues arising from serving as a juror are due to the nature of the OTR truck driving profession.