US Regulators Prepare New Trucking Regulations For December, Finalize Driver Coercion Rule

December will bring a number of new US regulations for the trucking industry, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) begins to release details on its rulings this month. Last week, the Office of Management and Budget published its finalized version of its coercion rule, a regulation that will penalize motor carriers, shippers, receivers, transportation intermediaries such as brokers and freight forwarders, if they are found to have coerced a trucker into violating road safety standards such as hours-of-service regulations. The final rule creates channels for truckers to report suspected coercion, steps the FMCSA can take in response to those allegations, and possible penalties. The rule will take effect on January 29, 2016. Coercion is defined as a party motivating a trucker to violate federal safety regulations by threatening their employment status or future work opportunities. Truckers must report suspected coercion within 90 days of the incident and provide as much evidence as possible to support their claim, including text messages and emails. The trucker must also include their response to the request to violate federal safety standards and name any potential witnesses who could bolster their case. Driver complaints can be filed with the FMCSA Division Office in the state where the complainant is employed or with the National Consumer Complaint Database. The accused will have an opportunity for a hearing with the FMCSA to defend themselves and the burden of proof is on the FMCSA, which will investigate the claims. Penalties for those found guilty of coercing drivers include civil fines of up to $10,000 per offense and the possibility of losing operating licenses and authority. The first rule may be the most significant for shippers, brokers and carriers, as it will set penalties for companies that force drivers to break Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules and potentially extend the agency’s oversight beyond the carriers it regulates to shippers. The coercion rule is just the first of other regulations the FMCSA is slated to implement. Other regulations will include a mandate to use electronic logging to track drivers’ time on the road, speed regulators, electronic stability controls and a drug and alcohol testing clearinghouse. Stay tuned as more develops.