Driver Coercion Rule Taking Effect In Florida January 29, 2016, May Reduce Trucking Accidents

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety [1] Administration (FMCSA), coercion occurs when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of hours-of-service and other safety regulations including certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) and the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations (FMCCRs).  An example of coercion occurs when a motor carrier terminates a driver for refusing to accept a load that would require the driver to violate the hours of service (HOS) requirements.

The FMCSA reports that economic pressure in the motor carrier industry affects commercial drivers in ways that can adversely affect safety[2]. For years, drivers have voiced concerns that other parties in the logistics chain are frequently indifferent to the operational limits imposed on them.  Drivers and others who testified at FMCSA listening sessions and before Congress said that some motor carriers, shippers, receivers, tour guides, and brokers insist that a driver deliver a load or passengers on a schedule that would be impossible to meet without violating the HOS or other regulations. Drivers may also be pressured to operate vehicles with mechanical deficiencies, despite the restrictions imposed by the safety regulations

To address the problem of coercion, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adopted the Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers, known as the Coercion Rule [3].  The Rule allows drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA and authorizes the administration to issue penalties against motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries.

Coercion Rule Penalties

The Rule takes effect January 29, 2016, at which time the administration will start to accept coercion complaints from drivers.  FMCSA will take aggressive action when a violation of the prohibition against coercion can be substantiated. This action will include civil penalties consistent with the regulations, and may include initiation of a proceeding to revoke the operating authority of a for-hire motor carrier. Under 49 U.S.C. 13905 [4], a carrier that engages in willful non-compliance with an Agency regulation or order may have its operating authority revoked.  Pursuant to the terms of the rule, violators could face a fine of $16,000.00 per violation.

According to the FMCSA, which collects data regarding large truck and bus accidents, 3,802 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes [5] in 2012; a 5% increase from 2011.  The administration also provides that during the same time period, the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 22% from 63,000 to 70,000.  When truck drivers do not abide by the regulations that control their workload and hours of operation, they may become fatigued from driving too many hours per day or too many hours in a work week.  If coercion creates situations where large trucks are operated in an unsafe manner, then there are consequences for safety and driver health risks. By forcing drivers to operate mechanically unsafe vehicles or drive beyond their allowed hours, coercion increases the risk of crashes. Additionally, the operation of large trucks beyond HOS limits has been shown to have negative consequences for driver health.

This, in turn, can cause serious or even fatal accidents as the above statistics suggest.  By enacting the new Coercion Rule, there is hope that a driver who is being coerced to violate important safety rules will report the actions of his or her employer which will reduce the number of trucking accidents and fatalities.

Call an Experienced Florida Truck Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one are involved in an accident with a large truck, you may have serious and even permanent injuries or disabilities.  At the Dolman Law Group in Florida, our team of highly skilled truck accident lawyers have successfully helped many truck accident victims obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries and related losses. To make sure that you receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled, it is important to have an experienced truck accident attorney handling your case. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756