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Shippers Express Concern Over ‘Driver Coercion’ Proposal

A proposal by the FMCSA aimed at preventing carriers, shippers, receivers or brokers from “forcing” drivers to bend hours of service rules or other regulations.

Ordered by Congress in the 2012 highway law, MAP-21, the proposal is a response to driver concerns that various players along the supply chain are indifferent to operational restrictions imposed on them. A violation of the rule, if passed,  sets fines and creates procedures for drivers to report coercion.

The agency had been accepting comments on the proposal, which were due Aug. 11. The strongest concerns, according to a Heavy Duty Trucking report, come from the shipper community.

The National Industrial Transportation League said the proposal would require shippers to monitor behaviour which is typical the responsibility of the employer.  Shippers also are concerned that the procedures for reporting coercion are based on hearsay or “he said/she said” exchanges, which would be hard to confirm.

The National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council described the proposal as “a stunning overreach and abuse of regulatory power.”

“In effect, FMCSA seeks to deputize virtually all American businesses, along with federal, state and local governments, and individuals shipping personal property and household goods, as unofficial compliance personnel regulated by this agency,” the council said in its comments.

Shippers already have good reasons not to coerce drivers to break the rules, the council said. For instance, they face lawsuits triggered by crashes, among other issues.

American Trucking Associations generally supports the agency’s approach, with some reservations, reports HDT.  The agency’s proposed procedure for reporting coercion – the driver would have 60 days to file a written report following a complaint – is too loose, according to ATA.

ATA recommended that the complaint be filed at the time of the incident, in order to preserve the evidence.

ATA also agrees that drivers should “bear a substantial burden of proof” in filing a complaint and suggested that the agency include a convincing evidentiary standard for claims.

“A clear and convincing standard of proof would help protect against interference with legitimate commercial business judgment without eroding the protection offered by the prohibition on coercion,” ATA said.