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FMCSA issues notice to raise awareness of sexual assault

Dec. 8, 2023
Veteran driver says she's been pushing regulators for 15 years to address 'the very real issue we have in our industry.' The FMCSA notice reiterates regulations that states must suspend CDLs of drivers who commit felonies, including sexual assault.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a notice to remind states that drivers convicted of using a commercial vehicle to commit a felony must have their commercial driver's licenses or commercial learner's permits suspended. 

Desiree Wood, president of the nonprofit Real Women in Trucking, told FleetOwner it's a step she's been wanting federal regulators to take for a long time. 

"I have spent the past 15 years trying to get the FMCSA and other major organizations to utter the words' sexual assault' to start addressing the very real issue we have in our industry that is unique in that it requires two people to cohabitate with one another unsupervised as a condition of employment during the first critical weeks of training," the veteran driver told FleetOwner. "While this notice of enforcement is a step forward, convictions are difficult in the current culture."

See also: Women underscore ongoing harassment, driver training problems in trucking

The Dec. 7 notice clarifies that when state courts forward convictions based on the use of a CMV in the commission of felony sexual assault, the state driver's licensing agency must disqualify the driver for the periods outlined in 49 CFR 383.51(b), Table 1, item (6).

"In addition a robust, comprehensive code of conduct must be implemented that protects everyone involved in these cohabitation training environments," Wood said. "No more shuffling predators from one training fleet to another."

See also: Spotlight on an American Trucker: Desiree Wood

According to FMCSA, the definition of "using a CMV" in sexual assault could include:

  • felony sexual assault occurring in or upon a CMV or towed unit; or
  • use of a CMV to transport a victim to a site where felony sexual assault is committed;  or
  • use of a CMV to conceal a felony sexual assault—e.g., the CMV serves as a shield from public view while the assault is taking place.

Wood said that the industry needs to educate law enforcement to take assault reports seriously and to understand why new drivers in training sometimes must live on trucks with someone they hardly know. And that predators shouldn't be allowed to get a clean slate when moving to another company.

"We need bystander intervention training and consequences for all who have swept sexual assaults under the rug in the trucking industry for decades," she said.

Wood drafted solutions to trucking sexual assualt and harrassment problems that she "hand delivered to FMCSA years ago" that Real Women In Trucking published in 2022. "Revoking CDLs is one of them among other solutions to protect people from gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace," she said. 

About the Author

Scott Keith

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