Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Truck Driver Coercion Rule Puts Spotlight on Shippers, Supply Chains William B. Cassidy, Senior Editor | May 14, 2014 3:36PM EDT

For years, truck drivers have complained about

being pushed by dispatchers and others to

violate federal regulations to meet unrealistic

delivery deadlines. Soon, truckers may have a

way to push back.

A proposal published in the May 13 Federal

Register targets “coercion” against truckers and

would hit offenders — including motor carriers,

logistics operators and shippers — with

penalties of up to $11,000 per incident, and

possible revocation of the operating authority of

a trucking company, freight broker or forwarder.

The proposed rule is the latest step toward

extending the regulatory reach of the Federal

Motor Carrier Safety Administration beyond

trucking to the broader supply chain. The

FMCSA is looking into issues such as driver

detention to determine how action or inaction

by shippers, consignees and other supply chain

partners can affect truck driver health, well-

being and safety.

“Safety has got to be part of the supply chain,

part of logistics planning, just as sustainability

and efficiency are,” FMCSA Administrator Anne

S. Ferro said during a panel discussion at the

annual meeting of the Transportation and

Logistics Council in Nashville, Tennessee, in


The FMCSA began studying the effects of

excessive detention at shipper and receiver

sites in 2012, recently completing the first

phase of its investigation. The second phase of

the detention study is set to begin shortly.

The agency is also studying the connection

between detention, driver pay and highway

safety. At the Transportation Research Board

meeting in Washington in January, Ferro called

detention “not just inefficiency in the supply

chain, but inefficiency that is placed on the

back of truckers and for which they are not


The Obama administration included language

in the Grow America Act — the White House’s

$302 billion surface transportation spending

proposal — that would require truck drivers who

are paid per mile also be paid for non-driving

time at an hourly rate not less than the federal

minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour.

Although the Obama bill may have less chance

of advancing in Congress than a fuels tax

increase, the driver pay provision does indicate

how the administration is thinking about driver

and truck safety issues.

Ferro said Congress gave the agency a freer

hand to oversee supply chains in the 2012

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century

Act or MAP-21, by ordering the agency to issue

an anti-coercion rule, along with an electronic

logging mandate. MAP-21, “extends the

agency’s authority to penalize into the shipping

world,” Ferro told the T&LC, ensuring “a holistic

approach to safety for that last mile.”

In its rule-making, the FMCSA goes farther than

Congress ordered. The agency’s proposed rule

would cover not just Federal Motor Carrier

Safety Regulations and Hazardous Materials

Regulations but the commercial regulations

governing motor carrier practices — such as

obtaining insurance and operating authority —

the FMCSA inherited from the Interstate

Commerce Commission.

The coercion rule-making should put

transportation intermediaries and shippers —

as well as trucking companies — on alert. In its

proposal, the FMCSA said Congress in MAP-21

decided to expand the reach of motor carrier

safety regulations “from the supply side … to

the demand side,” including shippers, receivers,

brokers, freight forwarders “and others that hire

motor carriers to provide transportation and

whose actions have an impact on CMV

(commercial motor vehicle) safety.”

The rule-making targets any company that

threatens drivers with “loss of a job, denial of

subsequent loads, reduced payment, denied

access to the best trips, etc.” for refusing to

operate a truck under circumstances they know

or should know would violate federal truck

safety rules.

For example, insisting a driver deliver a load on

a schedule that would be impossible to meet

without violating hours of service regulations,

or pressuring a driver to operate an unsafe

vehicle. The coercion rule would apply to

shippers or brokers when they assume the role

“normally reserved to the driver’s employer,”

the FMCSA said in its proposal. For example,

directing a driver to finish a run within a certain

time. That shipper or broker “may commit

coercion if it fails to heed a driver’s objection

that the request would require him/her to break

the rules,” the agency said. “When directing the

driver’s actions, these entities ‘should have

known’ whether the driver could complete the

run” without violating the work rules.

The driver would have to object for a threat to

constitute coercion, the agency said, asking for

comments on how drivers might modify their

interactions with shippers, receivers and

intermediaries in response to the rule.

Comments are due by Aug. 11, 2014.

The proposed rule could certainly lead to

changes in how shippers, receivers, brokers

and carrier dispatchers interact with drivers.

Some trucking companies may decide their

dispatch staff needs additional training.

Under the proposed rule, drivers would have 60

days to file a written coercion complaint with an

FMCSA division administrator, either the

administrator for the state where the coercion

occurred or the one for the state where the

company involved has its principal place of

business. Complaints sent to the FMCSA by e-

mail, letter, social media or phone will be

forwarded to the appropriate state FMCSA


The division administrator would then

determine whether a complaint was “non-

frivolous” and investigate accusations of

coercion, the FMCSA said in its proposal.

Contact William B. Cassidy at


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