Photo: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Photo: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

A final rule prohibiting acts of coercion aimed at compelling truck drivers to violate federal safety regulations has been published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Federal Register for Nov. 30.  It becomes effective 60 days after its publication date, on Jan. 29, 2016.

The “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers” rule specifically prohibits 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— including drivers' hours-of-service limits; CDL regulations; drug and alcohol testing rules; and haz-mat regs.

The rule also prohibits anyone who operates a CMV in interstate commerce from coercing a driver to violate the commercial regulations. 

FMCSA said the final rule addresses three key areas concerning driver coercion:

  • 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
  • Penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers

Those penalties can include levying a fine of up to $16,000 for each offense on any “motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary that coerces a driver to violate the regulations listed in the definition of coercion.” 

The rulemaking had been initiated in May, 2014, per Congressional mandate in response to long-standing driver concerns that carriers and others often are indifferent to the operational restrictions imposed by the safety rules, according to the agency.

FMSCA said that during the rulemaking process it heard from drivers who reported being pressured to violate federal safety regs “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 noted that truck and bus drivers have had whistle-blower protection through the  Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1982, when the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) was adopted. FMCSA pointed out that “STAA provides whistleblower protection for drivers who report coercion complaints under this final rule and are then retaliated against by their employer.”

“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.

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