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FMCSA to target truck companies that coerce truck drivers into breaking safety laws

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 20th, 2014

Pursuant to MAP-21 mandate, the FMCSA submits proposal for White House review, addressing trucking companies that pressure truck drivers to break laws

All three founding members of the Truck Attorneys Roundtable are lawyers who primarily help people injured in terrible truck accidents around the country. All three of us have handled countless cases where truck drivers have been coerced and threatened by management to violate safety laws.

And inevitably, when a terrible truck wreck does happen and lives are lost, we’ve seen the same companies try to hang these drivers out to dry – to make them the fall-guys and scapegoats for a corporate policy that stressed profits over safety.

And it finally looks like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is going to do something about it. The FMCSA is close to releasing a new proposed rule that would target bad trucking companies that coerce truck drivers into breaking the rules.

Everyone in the commercial transportation industry already knows that  truckers are influenced, pressured, and sometimes downright coerced, by bad trucking companies (and also brokers, shippers and receivers) into cutting corners on safety. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to make deliveries as quickly as possible – even if that means driving in excess of the allowable hours of service, speeding, or committing other dangerous acts that threaten the safety of the public.

This scenario puts some truck drivers in a hopeless situation.

The good news is that, hopefully, something is now being done now, before accidents occur and with a much broader scope than what lawyers can do in the courtroom – after it is too late.

A proposed regulation, which is required by the current highway funding mandates, could address those pressures from bad trucking companies, shippers and brokers. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21 Act), which we’ve discussed several times on our Roundtable blog, mandates in its provisions that the FMCSA address coercion in the trucking industry in a new regulation.

The administrative body has drafted a proposed rule. The proposal is now at the White House Office of Management and Budget for review before it’s published. The proposal comes not only in response to the MAP-21 directive, but also a related 2011 court order that told the FMCSA it has to make sure that carriers cannot use electronic logging to coerce drivers. In addition to targeting bad trucking companies, the MAP-21 Act also extends the coercion ban to brokers, shippers, receivers and other intermediaries.

As a truck lawyer and a commercial vehicle safety advocate, I’m excited to see what the FMCSA does about  this serious problem. Having litigated these cases, I know that often safety threats  start at the very top. These are the trucking companies who permit, encourage, or even compel, their truckers to break the rules and ignore safety. These are the trucking companies that cause serious truck accidents that seriously hurt or kill people.

The ball is in the FMCSA’s court, and the entire highway safety community will be watching to see what they do next.

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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