The new rule prohibiting acts of coercion aimed at compelling truck drivers to violate federal safety regulations takes effect in just over two weeks, on Jan. 29.
The “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers” rule specifically forbids motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries from coercing CDL holders to violate certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
The covered regulations include drivers' hours-of-service limits; CDL regulations; drug and alcohol testing rules; and haz-mat requirements.
The rule also prohibits anyone who operates a CMV in interstate commerce from coercing a driver to violate the commercial regulations.
According to FMCSA, the final rule addresses three key areas concerning driver coercion:
- Procedures for commercial truck and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to 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 fines 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 was mandated by Congress back in 2014 in response to long-standing driver concerns that carriers and others are often indifferent to the operational restrictions imposed by federal safety rules, according to FMCSA.
During the rulemaking process, the agency noted that it heard from drivers who reported having been pressured to violate 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.”
“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 Chief Counsel T.F. Scott Darling III.