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New FMCSA Rule Boosts Driver Rights and Safety

coercion

Final Rule Prohibiting Coercion Takes Effect

2/8/2016 by Caroline Ailanthus

The final rule prohibiting the coercion of drivers to violate hours of service (HOS) regulations is now in effect, as of January 29th.

The basic idea is that shippers, brokers, and fleet managers may not in any way pressure truck drivers to ignore hours-of-service (HOS) or other regulations. Those that engage in coercion anyway face fines or even the loss of their operating licenses. Any fines collected would go to the Highway Trust Fund.

The new rule is a response to complaints from drivers over the last several years who reported being under pressure from their employer to violate FMCSA safety regulations. The specific areas protected by the new rule are HOS, CDL requirements, drug and alcohol testing, and hazardous materials regulations.

The new rule defines “coercion” in very specific terms; among other details, the driver must not only be asked to do something against regulation (such as taking on a schedule that would require forgoing rest breaks) but must also inform whoever made the request of the problem. Coercion then occurs when a supervisor, shipper, or other relevant authority attempts to pressure the driver to do the task anyway. An actual violation is not necessary, however.

There are now two clearly defined procedures drivers can use to report coercion and seek relief.

To file a coercion complaint, drivers can contact either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Division Office of the state where the complainant works or the National Consumer Complaint Database. The complaint must be filed within 90 days of the coercive event. Complainants should present as much supporting evidence as possible, such as email or text records or the names of any witnesses.

Drivers may also file whistleblower complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Besides the Federal processes, some states have their own OSHA department as well and can accept complaints.

The new rule should be a great relief to drivers, but fleet managers have more incentive than ever to demonstrate safety and HOS compliance.

One important way to keep drivers safe and businesses compliant is to invest in a GPS fleet management system with an HOS solution that incorporates an electronic logging device (ELD) feature. The system is user-friendly for drivers and allows them to enter and submit daily hours of service from the in-cab display. This process also allows drivers to save time from error-prone manual logbook entries, thus eliminating possible audits. All relevant HOS information is sent to the user’s computer for storage and retrieval via a wireless network.

A wealth of data can be found right at a fleet manager’s fingertips. And both drivers and fleet managers can ensure the business is operating under safety compliance. 

 

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