FMCSA Rule to Expand Safeguards Against Coercion of Commercial Truck, Bus Drivers

AASHTO Journal, 4 December 2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a final regulation aimed at helping “further safeguard commercial truck and bus drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations.”

The new rule provides the FMCSA with authority to take enforcement action not only against motor carriers, but against others in the supply chain – shippers, receivers and transportation intermediaries. It will take effect 60 days from its Nov.30 publication in the Federal Register.

The agency said drivers had reported, for example, being pressured to adhere to schedules they could not meet while complying with federal work-hour regulations.

“Our nation relies on millions of commercial vehicle drivers to move people and freight, and we must do everything we can to ensure that they are able to operate safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This rule enables us to take enforcement action against anyone in the transportation chain who knowingly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of the driver and of the motoring public.”

The final rule addresses procedures for commercial truck and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA, steps the agency could take when responding to such allegations and penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers.

“Any time a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, freight-forwarder, or broker demands that a schedule be met, one that the driver says would be impossible without violating hours-of-service restrictions or other safety regulations, that is coercion,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling.

“No commercial driver should ever feel compelled to bypass important federal safety regulations and potentially endanger the lives of all travelers on the road,” he added.

The rulemaking was authorized by the 2012 MAP-21 transportation law. The FMCSA issued a notice of proposed rule making in May 2014, and took comments from drivers, owner-operators, trucking companies, safety groups and trade associations representing shippers and carriers.

The FMCSA said that in formulating this rule the agency heard from commercial drivers who reported coercion to violate federal safety regulations with threats of job termination, denial of subsequent trips or loads, reduced pay, forfeiture of favorable work hours or transportation jobs, or other direct retaliations.

Besides hours-of-service regulations, drivers reported being coerced into violating rules on commercial driver’s license requirements, drug and alcohol testing, and transportation of hazardous materials, among others.

Commercial truck and bus drivers have had whistle-blower protection through the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1982, when the Surface Transportation Assistance Act was adopted.

That law and OSHA regulations protect drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security conditions.

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