Prohibiton of Coercion of CMV Drivers Proposed Rule
On Tuesday, May 13th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) requesting public comments on their proposed prohibition of coercion of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers regulation.
Pursuant to section 32911 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21, the Agency is proposing to adopt regulations that prohibit motor carriers, shippers, receivers, and brokers from coercing drivers to operate CMVs in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). These would include;
- driver’s hours-of-service limits; and
- the commercial driver’s license (CDL) regulations associated with drug and alcohol testing rules and hazardous materials regulations.
This NPRM includes procedures for drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA and parties found in violation of these regulations would be subject to monetary penalties not to exceed $11,000 per offense and possible revocation of their license. The drivers alleging illegal discrimination or coercion must bear substantial burden of proof. The Agency cannot proceed without evidence and the driver will have to provide much of that evidence.
The Agency is proposing to base this rule on the common law principle of “respondeat superior,” which holds the “master” liable for the acts of his “servants”. In most cases, the Agency holds the motor carrier responsible for the actions of their drivers. When a shipper, receiver, or broker directs a driver to complete a run within a certain time, it has assumed the role normally reserved to the driver’s employer. As such, it may lead to a situation where the entity might commit coercion if it fails to heed a driver’s objection that the request would require him/her to break the rules. The shipper, receiver, or broker will not be excused from liability for coercion, because it did not inquire about the driver’s time remaining or pretended not to hear the objection. When directing the driver’s actions, these entities ‘‘should have known’’ whether the driver could complete the run without violating the FMCSRs.
Additionally, stated in the notice, an act of coercion by a carrier, shipper, receiver, or broker does not absolve the driver of his responsibility to comply with safety regulations. Furthermore, the Agency’s definition of “coercion” prohibits threats by carriers, shippers, receivers, and brokers to withhold future business from a driver for objecting to operate a vehicle in violation of the safety regulations.