A recently proposed rule by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has the attention of the entire trucking industry. The rule is casually known as the ‘Truck Driver Coercion Rule,’ and the reason it has the attention of the trucking industry is because of the major impact it would have. Part of that impact would include the number of legal questions the rule would create. Not only that, but shipping processes and other aspects to the industry could change dramatically as well.
Details of the New Regulation
The Truck Driver Coercion Rule’s stated purpose is simple enough. The purpose of the new rule would be to prohibit motor carriers and other entities under the regulation of the agency from forcing drivers to break the various safety regulations. For example, these agencies would be prohibited from forcing drivers to break hours-of-service limits, commercial driver’s license regulations, and drug and alcohol testing regulations. Additionally, the rule would prohibit forcing drivers to break commercial regulations. If companies do force drivers to break these and other regulations, the rule establishes a procedure to report the coercion.
The rule says it prohibits economic coercion of drivers, in its various forms. The different forms of coercion the rule would prohibit are:
- Threatening drivers with loss of work unless they deliver goods on time; and
- Threatening drivers with other negative economic consequences unless they break safety or commercial regulations.
Of course, proving that a company actually coerced a driver would be difficult. Companies have schedules, and those schedules have to be met. But one of the interesting aspects of this proposed rule is the standard proposed for motor carriers and other entities; the standard of whether a motor carrier would be in violation of the rule is whether the carrier knew or should have known that their drivers would be in violation of regulations. The should have known standard is harder for companies to skirt, and would put a larger burden on companies to know exactly what their drivers are doing.
Impact on Industry
As mentioned before, the impact on the industry would be widely felt. At a recent trucking industry conference where this rule was one of the topics, a speaker discussed this impact. One of the questions posed to the industry asked if they can honestly say whether they know that each driver making deliveries to their company is at or under hours, or whether their licenses are up to date. Since the standard in this new rule is whether a company knows or should know, it will create a large burden on trucking companies. Part of that impact includes the fines and penalties that would result for each violations. Under the terms of the proposed rule, each violation could carry a penalty of $11,000, and worse, it could issue work stoppages for companies.
As the regulatory landscape continues to change, it is more important than ever that trucking companies have competent legal counsel to turn to for answers. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C. we are dedicated to trucking industry law and are here to guide your company through all the changes that lie ahead.