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Truck driver coercion rule proposed by FMSCA

Written by Steve Gursten Posted September 4th, 2014

Lawyers forget it’s often the company pressuring its drivers to break rules that leads to many truck accidents

truck driver coercion rule

There is an important new rule that would prevent many truck accidents by taking a new approach. The rule is being proposed by the FMCSA,  and instead of focusing on the crash itself (when someone is already injured or killed), the rule is targeting the many trucking companies, brokers, shippers, and  transport intermediaries that regularly coerce truck drivers into violating safety rules to maximize profits.

Well, the good news is that this proposed rule is now one step closer to becoming law.

The FMCSA is seeking public comment on its proposed rules that prohibit coercing commercial truck drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in violation of  safety regulations.

As an attorney, I’ve litigated some horrific truck accidents. It soon became apparent in my practice that the knee-jerk reaction of many attorneys and law enforcement of focusing only on the truck driver is wrong. Often, the trucker who caused the crash is a good person working a hard job, who was being taken advantage of by his employer. Far too often, there is incredible pressure being put on these drivers to violate safety rules by the trucking company, and even the company’s own safety director or owners.

In far too many lawsuits, attorneys litigate truck cases by focusing only on the truck driver. The reality is, because of the fundamentally unsafe business mode that exists today in the commercial transportation  industry, truckers are put in a very difficult position where they (literally) may have to choose between breaking the law and endangering the innocent public, or keeping their jobs.

This new rule is meant to protect good truckers.

The rule also would apply to all parties in the supply chain, including shippers, receivers and transportation intermediaries. It would target the pressure they may place on drivers to deliver a load or otherwise operate a CMV regardless of applicable regulations. It would prohibit them from coercing drivers to operate CMVs in circumstances that are known or should be known to require the driver to violate several rules found in the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

The regulations include:

  • Parts 171-173 or 177-180 (Hazardous Materials Regulations)
  • Parts 380-383 or 390-399 (Safety Regulations, including Driver Hours of Service, Driver Training, and Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing Rules)
  • §§ 385.105(b) or 385.111(a), (c)(1) or (g) (Suspension/ Revocation of Mexico-Domiciled-Carrier Authority
  • §§ 385.415 or 385.421 (Hazardous Materials Operational Requirements and Safety Permit Suspension/Revocation)

The rules also prohibit motor carriers from coercing drivers to operate CMVs under circumstances that are known or should be known to require the driver to violate 49 CFR Parts 356, 360, or 365-379 (Commercial Regulations, including Routing, Financial Responsibility and Operating Authority).

Coercion could arguably mean different things. But, under the proposed rule, coercion means “…a threat to withhold, or the actual withholding of, current or future business, employment or work opportunities from a driver for objecting to the operation of a CMV.”

If one of the bodies does coerce a truck driver into breaking safety rules, there are potentially serious ramifications. Truck drivers subject to prohibited coercion may file a written complaint of coercion within 60 days of the coercion event. Any person who engages in prohibited coercion is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $11,000 per offense.

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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