FMSCA anti-coercion rule for truckers has gone live!
Effective January 29, 2016, the much anticipated anti-coercion rule went live in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Now what?
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was passed by Congress in 2012. A portion of the Act required that the regulations which govern the commercial transportation industry (ie. the trucking industry) ensure that the operator of a commercial motor vehicle is not coerced by a motor carrier (a trucking company), shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary, to operate a commercial truck or bus in violation of the regulations.
It’s against this backdrop that the anti-coercion rule was born.
The anti-coercion rule is meant to protect truck and bus drivers who choose to be safe and follow the rules, and are actually penalized by their employers for putting safety first. This new rule is a great weapon in the fight against unsafe trucking companies who actually put money over lives.
The new rule allows the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to levy heavy penalties on any “motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary” including their officers or other representatives who attempt to coerce a safe truck driver into breaking the law. § 390.6.
The fines can be as high as $16,000.
To trigger a violation of the new law, there has to first be a “coercion.” What does that mean? Luckily, the FMCSA defined “coercion” in the definitions section of the regulations in § 390.5. Coercion means a threat or an actual act to “withhold business, employment or work opportunities…or take any adverse employment action” against a truck or bus driver for refusing to do something contrary to the regulations. § 390.5.
But the truck or bus driver have to take action as well. The driver has an affirmative duty to inform the person that if the driver were to follow that order or complete the desired task, he or she would be in violation of the law. The trucker or bus driver must also state, in general, which regulation would have been violated. When the driver objects, states rules, and he or she is threatened and/or retaliated against, there has been “coercion” for purposes of § 390.6.
How can truck drivers protect themselves with this new anti-coercion rule?
So, if you’ve been coerced, what can you, the truck driver, do about it?
You may file a complaint with the FMCSA. But do not wait too long – complaints pursuant to § 390.6 must be filed within 90 days of the coercion occurring. The complaint must be in writing, and can be made online here, at the National Consumer Complaint Database website, or via mail to the FMCSA division office in the state where you are employed.
Unfortunately, the complaint cannot be made anonymously. A truck driver must provide his or her name and contact information. The complaint must also contain a summary of the coercion, the rules which the truck or bus driver was being pressured to break, and must be signed. The complaint may be supported by documentary evidence like emails, text messages, witness information, etc., but that is optional.
The new rule is not perfect – but it’s a huge step forward. Our attorneys are constantly being contacted by truckers who tell us about how they’re being forced to violate mandatory safety rules. And in the depositions of truckers in far too many truck accident cases we litigate, we find the truck driver was coerced by the company and company safety director to violate important FMCSA safety regulations.
This certainly is a welcome weapon in the never-ending fight against unsafe trucking companies, and other commercial carriers.