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Rule preventing driver coercion takes effect

A new rule aims to prevent driver coercion.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently published a new rule that can potentially result in heavy fines for those in the trucking industry if they knowingly force drivers to break federal regulations. According to Logistics Management, the rule, from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is known as "Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers."

For many in the industry, this rule is simply known as the driver coercion rule. It will take effect Jan. 29, 2016 after the Federal Register's publishing.

Key aspects
The rule is designed to prevent shippers, carriers, transportation intermediaries and receivers from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles, even if they would violate certain federal regulations.

Some of the regulations the rule aims to prevent from being broken include commercial driving license requirements, alcohol and drug tests, hours-of-service and Hazardous Materials Regulations.

"Carriers, shippers and others risk hefty fines if found they had coerced drivers into driving."

If drivers are coerced, costly fines will likely be handed down . According to Overdrive, fines can be enacted up to $16,000.

In the official ruling, the Federal Register asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine the exact definition of coercion, as it could entail broader threats than simply withholding work.

OSHA's definition of coercion, in this instance is, "a threat…to take or permit any adverse employment action against a driver."

The current definition has been amended from the previous version after worries from industry leaders, such as the American Trucking Association. The previous definition did make a clear distinction over whether a shipper or carrier could hire another driver if found the original hire was over his or her hours of service. In this instance, the revised definition seeks to find a balance to ensure deliveries are made without violating the rule.

Changes enacted
The FMCSA initially issued a notice of the proposed rule back in May 2014, but there were glaring oversights and not enough specifics. Logistics Management stated the ruling may have altered fundamental parts of the trucking industry by changing many parts.

Since then, the rule has been cleaned up and it is not an exact copy of the original proposal. As a result, TIA senior government affairs manager Chris Burroughs told Logistics Management many previous issues have been cleaned up, and commended the FMCSA for doing so.

Industry leaders agree that no driver should be coerced into breaking any rules, but the rules also have to take into account shippers and carriers.

"But we don't want to create a situation where one of our guys gets unfairly put in a situation where he has a pay a $16,000 fine for something he had no responsibility over. It will be very interesting to see how this is enforced," added Burroughs.