The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing rules to protect drivers from coercion by their employers, shippers, receivers or brokers.
The rules are aimed in particular at preventing abuse concerning driver hours of service, the commercial drivers license, drug and alcohol rules and hazardous materials rules.
The proposal was ordered by Congress in the 2012 highway law, MAP-21, in response to longstanding driver concerns that carriers and others often are indifferent to the operational restrictions imposed by the safety rules, the agency said.
Drivers have complained that they have been pushed to work past the limits of the hours of service rules or to drive trucks that have mechanical problems.
“The consequences of their refusal to (continue working) are either stated explicitly or implied in unmistakable terms: loss of a job, denial of subsequent loads, reduced payment, denied access to the best trips,” the agency said.
The agency is proposing to specifically prohibit carriers and others from threating drivers with loss of work or other economic opportunity for refusing to work because to do so would cause them to break the rules.
The prohibition would turn on whether or not the carrier or other party “knew or should have known” that continued work would violate a rule.
At the same time, an act of coercion would not absolve the driver of his responsibility to obey the rules, the agency said.
“A threat would not constitute coercion unless the driver objects or attempts to object,” the agency said.
An act of coercion could lead to a fine of as much as $11,000. For-hire carriers also could face loss of their operating authority.
The proposal includes procedures for drivers to follow if they want to report coercion. Complaints would be filed with the agency administrator in the state where the allegation occurred.
The proposal was published in Tuesday’s Federal Register. Comments are due by August 11.