There's no more dangerous combination on America’s roadways than a fatigued or impaired commercial driver and a 40-ton semi-trailer truck. Unfortunately, this combination is all too common. While many commercial truckers make the poor decision to drive when they're tired independently of any other factor, some drivers report being coerced to break hours of service rules by their employers. In an attempt to eliminate this problem, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed an anti-coercion rule that went into effect in January, 29, 2016. We take a look at the rule and how it protects commercial drivers and motorists alike.
Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Vehicle Drivers
The FMCSA’s Final Rule, addresses a problem reported to FMSCA by commercial drivers. Some drivers claim that they exceed hours of service rules and break other federal rules because they are pushed by their employers and shippers to do so.
Drivers reported they were coerced to break the law with threats of the following actions:
- Job termination
- Denial of subsequent trips
- Reduced pay
- Forfeiture of favorable work hours or jobs
The anti-coercion rule provides the FMSCA with authority to take action against not only motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, freight-forwarders, and brokers who demand a driver meets a schedule that he cannot do so safely. It also provides drivers with a procedure for reporting incidents of coercion.
Along with violating hours of service rules, drivers report being coerced to violate the following federal safety rules:
- Commercial driver’s license requirements
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Transportation of hazardous materials
- Other commercial regulations
The rule stipulates penalties for entities that engage in coercion of drivers, including fines of up to $16,000 per incident.
Responses to the Ruling
Fleet owners and shippers initially balked at some of the components of the new regulation, fearing drivers who violate hours of service rules of their own free will would simply blame a shipper or broker to avoid punishment. However, the FMCSA ruling requires proof of coercion that wouldn't be easy to fake. There's also concern in the industry that the FMCSA is overstepping its reach by regulating not just the motor carrier industry, but also shippers, receivers, and intermediaries which have not previously fallen under its jurisdiction.
Drivers, however, have had a positive response to the ruling, as it offers more whistleblower protections than they had prior to the change in 2016. While the rule doesn't stop drivers from willingly breaking federal safety regulations of their own accord, it does give drivers the power to fight back against coercion.
Mandatory Electronic Logging Devices
Another rule that will go into effect at the end of 2017 will offer further protections against fatigued drivers exceeding hours of service rules. By December 18, 2017, all commercial truck drivers will be required to track driving hours with an electronic logging device (ELD).
Currently, many drivers are still permitted to log their hours with paper and pencil. These logs are easily manipulated, by both drivers and employers. However, ELDs are much harder to falsify. These devices are installed in the truck and automatically track trips and breaks for the driver. This rule prevents both drivers and trucking companies from falsifying records to comply with the FMCSA rules.
Investigating the Cause of the Truck Crash That Left You Injured
If you're injured or a loved one is killed in a crash with a commercial truck, you'll need the knowledge and experience a truck accident attorney can provide for investigating the cause of the crash. If the driver claims he was coerced by his employer into breaking federal safety regulations, our attorneys will further investigate the possibility the trucking company may be at fault. These cases are too difficult to navigate on your own. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 for your free consultation today.