December 22, 2015 | Industry Insights
Final FMCSA Rule Takes Action to Stop Coercion of Commercial Vehicle Drivers
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its final rule on regulations that prohibit motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). In addition, the rule prohibits anyone who operates a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce from coercing a driver to violate the commercial regulations.
The rule also includes procedures for drivers to report an incident of coercion and establishes rules of practice for the FMCSA to follow in response to reports of coercion. Moreover, the rule describes the penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers: Violations may result in civil penalties of up to $16,000 per offense.
“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 U.S. 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.”
According to the FMCSA, some of the regulations drivers have reported as 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.
“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.”
Common threats against drivers have included loss of a job, denial of subsequent loads, reduced payment and denied access to the best trips, FMCSA said. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that 253 whistle-blower complaints from commercial vehicle drivers had merit during the period 2009-2012. In addition, during the same period, FMCSA validated 20 allegations of motor carrier coercion of drivers that were filed with the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General — an average of more than 68 acts of coercion per year during the four-year period.
To avoid potentially violating the rule, entities should ensure that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place for managing communications with drivers. For example, in an information sheet published with the new rule, FMCSA recommends that drivers provide any written exchange, including text messages and emails, reflecting an alleged request to violate a regulation.
Roanoke Trade specializes in providing insurance and risk management solutions to logistic service providers and transportation intermediaries. For more information about our products and services, give us a call at 1-800-ROANOKE (800-762-6653)
Sources: FMCSA, Transport Topics, JD Supra