At work, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. As adults, we accept that fact, even though we might not like it. But can you imagine being forced to do things that are unsafe, putting not only yourself but also others at risk?
In 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a “final rule” in the November 30 Federal Register. The “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers” rule, which bans the coercion of truck drivers to violate federal safety regulations, went into effect on January 29, 2016. The rule also prohibits the coercion of drivers of other commercial motor vehicles, such as buses and moving vans.
With this rule, motor carrier companies, shippers, receivers, or other transportation agents are now prohibited from forcing drivers to violate certain FMCSA regulations, notably exceeding the limits on a driver’s hours of service, licensing (CDL) regulations, drug and alcohol testing regulations, and hazardous materials regulations. These companies can now be penalized for threatening to take action, or for taking action, against a driver by terminating his employment, reducing his hours, reducing his pay, denying him trips or loads, or exercising other direct retaliations.
The rule came about because a number of commercial drivers stepped forward with stories of being threatened with various job retaliations if they did not break federal safety regulations. On the day the rule was published, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “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. 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.”
Three important areas regarding the coercion of drivers are now covered by this rule: the procedures for reporting coercion; the steps that the FMCSA can take in response; and the penalties than can be levied by the FMCSA, which are up to $16,000 for each offense.
While commercial drivers have had whistleblower protections since 1982 through the enactment of OSHA’s Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), some holes still needed to be plugged. For example, under the new rule, even if no violations of safety regulations have occurred, coercion can still be found to have taken place. This is in contrast to a whistleblower action, where evidence regarding a violation of regulations would have to exist. An example of coercion where no regulation is broken is when a driver would be terminated for refusing a load that would mean violating his hours-of-service requirements.
Safety regulations that ensure drivers are not forced into staying on the road when they are too tired, driving while under the influence, or breaking regulations regarding the hauling of hazardous materials keeps the roads safer for all of us. Commercial drivers should not have to break the law to keep their jobs, and the new FMCSA rule addresses that fact.
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Truck accidents can be complex, both because of the large amounts of money that may be involved due to the seriousness of the accident and because of the potential for multiple defendants. It is important to consult with a qualified South Carolina truck accident lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
Based in Columbia, the Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you deserve to receive the maximum compensation that the law allows. For a free consultation and claim evaluation, contact the Louthian Law Firm today by calling us toll free at (803) 454-1200. If you prefer, you can also fill out our convenient online contact form.