A new rule to protect drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations was published Nov. 30 in the Federal Register.
Known as the “driver coercion” rule, it provides FMCSA with the authority to go after not only carriers, but also shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.
“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,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The final rule, to take effect 60 days following its publication, addresses three key areas: 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.”
In formulating this Rule, the agency heard from commercial drivers who reported being pressured to violate safety regulations with “implicit or explicit threats” of job termination, denial of subsequent trips or loads, reduced pay, forfeiture of favorable work hours or transportation jobs, or other direct retaliations, the agency says.
Some of the FMCSA regulations drivers reported being coerced into violating included: hours-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving, commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements, drug and alcohol testing, the transportation of hazardous materials, and commercial regulations applicable to, among others, interstate household goods movers and passenger carriers.
And while Congress in MAP-21 called on FMCSA to address the matter, particularly with regard to time lost at the shipping dock, many in the industry have felt driver coercion is a complex problem best solved in the marketplace.
“With the looming shortage of drivers, the market economy will dictate that those shippers that tie up drivers and tractors aren’t going to be well served by the trucking industry,” Transplace CEO Tom Sanderson told Fleet Owner recently. “Trucking companies today, more so than ever, will not put up with any kind of abuse or coercion by a shipper or broker of their drivers.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), however, in its formal comments on the rule applauded FMCSA “for taking the important step of recognizing the direct impact of economic conditions in the trucking industry” on highway safety.
“The marketplace demands for just-in-time shipping and greater transportation efficiency have meant ever increasing pressure to perform on one party, the driver,” OOIDA said. “This is the first time this agency has attempted to address the causes of violations of the motor carrier safety rules, rather than merely interdicting violations after they have occurred. This is a completely untapped area for substantial improvements in motor carrier safety.”
More information on what constitutes coercion and how to submit a complaint is available on the FMCSA website.