Beware of Coercion—New Anti-Coercion Rule Effective as of January 29, 2016
february 26, 2016
In the past, a trucking company pressuring a driver to operate in violation of federal safety regulations could create problems for the company in a personal injury lawsuit. As of January 29, 2016, a new federal rule implements potential large fines for carriers, shippers, receivers and brokers attempting to "coerce" the driver to operate in violation of federal safety regulations, including hours of operation.
Coercion is defined as threatening to take adverse employment action against the driver in order to induce the driver to operate under conditions violating a federal safety regulation or actually taking adverse employment action against the driver. The intent of the rule is to protect truckers from "threats of economic harm." Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made the rule applicable to other entities within the transportation chain due to complaints by drivers that pressure was being placed on them by entities other than the carriers.
The driver must make a complaint to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's National Consumer Complaint Database or an Area Administrator within 90 days of the alleged coercion. A valid complaint must contain both an explicit statement that the load cannot be delivered without violation of safety regulations, and that an explicit threat of economic harm was made to the driver. See, 49 C.F.R. Sections 390.5 and 390.6.
A fine of up to $16,000 can be imposed on any entity found to have engaged in coercion. In certain circumstances, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration "may" pursue an action to revoke the operating authority of a for-hire carrier. Initially, a determination will be made to decide if the claim is "nonfrivolous." If the claim is found to be legitimate, a division administrator with the Safety Administration will pursue an investigation.
It is important to remember that this rule applies not only to the actual motor carrier, but to other entities within the transportation chain, and presumably more than one entity could be found to violate the rule depending on the factual circumstances.