FMCSA Proposes Coercion Rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last week issued a proposed rule aimed at protecting drivers from “coercion” by their employers, shippers, receivers or brokers as it pertains to abuse concerning hours-of-service and other rules.

The proposal, reports Heavy Duty Trucking,  was first ordered by Congress in the 2012 highway law, MAP-21, in response to longstanding driver concerns about working past the hours limits.

“The consequences of their refusal to (continue working) are either stated explicitly or implied in unmistakable terms: loss of a job, denial of subsequent loads, reduced payment, denied access to the best trips,” the agency said.

The agency is proposing to specifically prohibit employers and others in the supply chain from “threatening” drivers with loss of work, wages or other economic opportunity.  The prohibition would turn on whether or not the carrier or other party “knew or should have known” that continued work would violate a rule.

At the same time, an act of coercion would not absolve the driver of his responsibility to obey the rules, the agency said. “A threat would not constitute coercion unless the driver objects or attempts to object,” the agency said.

An act of coercion could lead to a fine of as much as $11,000. For-hire carriers also could face loss of their operating authority.

The proposal includes procedures for drivers to follow if they want to report coercion. Complaints would be filed with the agency administrator in the state where the allegation occurred.

The proposal was published in the Federal Register.  Comments are due by August 11.