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FMCSA to target truck companies who coerce truckers to break laws

Written by Steve Gursten Posted June 5th, 2014

FMCSA posts notice for its long-awaited coercion rules against motor carriers that push truckers into breaking safety rules

truck driver coercion

It’s one of trucking industry’s worst kept secrets. And as an attorney who litigates cases involving people who have been injured or killed in terrible truck accidents, it’s now common to see  truckers are influenced, pressured and sometimes downright coerced by trucking companies into cutting corners on safety.

You may recall back in January when we  broke a story on some hopeful new rules mandated by the MAP-21 Act regarding dangerous trucking companies and their executives who push good truckers into breaking mandatory safety rules.

Truckers are also pressured by brokers, shippers and sometimes even the receivers themselves. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to make deliveries as quickly as possible, and sometimes the runs given out by the truck driver’s dispatcher cannot be legally completed. Sadly, that often translates into driving over hours of service, speeding, or violating other rules and regs that threaten public safety on our roads.

Well, hopefully, more help is coming.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing a rule that could bring this terrible practice to a halt. It recently posted  notice of proposed rule making  on the Prohibition of the Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers.

A quick summary:

“FMCSA proposes to adopt regulations that prohibit motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)—including drivers’ hours-of-service limits and the commercial driver’s license (CDL) regulations and associated drug and alcohol testing rules—or the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs).”

If coercion is proven, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) could impose a civil penalty which may not exceed $11,000 for each individual offense.

The real tooth of the rule though, is the FMCSA’s power to suspend, amend or revoke the operating authority registration of a for-hire motor carrier, broker or freight forwarder for “willful failure to comply with . . . an applicable regulation or order of the Secretary (of Transportation)…”

Now that packs some serious punch.

This is a huge step forward in the war against unsafe trucking companies and the dangerous individuals who put profit ahead of safety.  And it’s very encouraging that this is being done preemptively, not when it is too late and a terrible truck accident has already occurred and these case come to myself and other Roundtable attorneys.

This rule sends a clear message to anybody who tries to force and bully truck drivers into breaking the rules and putting others at risk: It is simply unacceptable.

As a long-time safety advocate and as an experienced truck accident lawyer who has seen some of the most egregious safety violations by motor carriers that you could possibly imagine, I’m happy by this proposed rule. I also hope that the final rule is true to this proposal.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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