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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What is the New Trucker Coercion Rule?

You’ve been driving for hours, the sun long vanished behind the horizon, and you know you’re almost out of hours. That E-Log is ticking away, after all. But your dispatcher kept pushing forward, wanting you to get the freight there a bit faster. Between your lack of time and heavy eyelids, you know that feat is impossible.

You could stop now, or press on and keep driving. While you know you need to follow the rules, the dispatcher made it clear that you’re gonna start missing out on jobs if you don’t make this delivery in less hours than you have.

This is known as driver coercion.

Now thanks to the FMCSA’s trucker coercion rule, drivers can now report dispatchers, shippers, and other workers who encourage truckers to violate federal regulations to meet deadlines. With the new rule, financial penalties for shippers who coerce drivers into breaking the laws can reach up to $16,000. Basically, instead of risking your life, income, and future, the companies will now risk the coins that line their coffers.

In the words of the FMCSA:

“[The rule] addresses three key areas concerning driver coercion: procedures for commercial truck and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA, steps the agency could take when responding to such allegations, and penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers.”

How did this rule start? Well, some commercial drivers reported pressure from shippers to violate federal safety regulations with threats of job termination, denial of future loads, reduced pay and hours, or even decreased future job opportunities.

How were drivers being coerced? The way most drivers faced it included ignoring driver hour limits, CDL requirements, drug and alcohol testing, and hazardous material transportation rules, among others.

“Any time a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, freight-forwarder, or broker demands that a schedule be met, one that the driver says would be impossible without violating hours-of-service restrictions or other safety regulations, that is coercion,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “No commercial driver should ever feel compelled to bypass important federal safety regulations and potentially endanger the lives of all travelers on the road.”

What should you do if you’re feeling coerced to break or bend a rule? First, you need to head to the National Consumer Complaint Database and file a report. While the FMCSA says the burden of proof is on the shippers, the truckers still have to provide evidence needed to sustain the fees against the violators. This means, make sure you have documentation of any incident you report, as the FMCSA will have to investigate these claims.

How does this affect you as a driver? Well, you know your limits and boundaries better than anyone else. Even if you disagree with these rules, your best call is to follow the new coercion rules, and to be upfront with the dispatchers and loaders.

Wait, still confused? Basically, the agency will now issue fines to companies who coerce drivers to break and bend laws to make deadlines.

While we can’t help you with pushy dispatchers, we can help you when it comes to filing your HVUT 2290s. If you have any questions, send us an email at support@expresstrucktax.com or give us a call at 704.234.6005.

What do you think about the new driver coercion rule?


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