The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced the publication in the Federal Register of a final rule to help further safeguard commercial truck and bus drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations.

This rule provides FMCSA with the authority to take enforcement action not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.

“Our nation relies on millions of commercial vehicle drivers to move people and freight, and we must do everything we can to ensure that they are able to operate safely,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This rule enables us to take enforcement action against anyone in the transportation chain who knowingly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of the driver and of the motoring public.”

The final 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.

“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.”

In formulating this rule, the agency heard from commercial drivers who reported being pressured to violate federal safety regulations with implicit or explicit threats of job termination, denial of subsequent trips or loads, reduced pay, forfeiture of favorable work hours or transportation jobs, or other direct retaliations.

Some of the FMCSA regulations drivers reported being coerced into violating included: hours-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving, commercial driver license (CDL) requirements, drug and alcohol testing, transportation of hazardous materials, and commercial regulations applicable to, among others, interstate household goods movers and passenger carriers.

Commercial truck and bus drivers have had whistleblower protection through the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1982, when the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) was adopted.

In June 2014, FMCSA and OSHA signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen coordination and cooperation between the agencies regarding the anti-retaliation provision of the STAA. The memorandum allows for the exchange of safety, coercion, and retaliation allegations, when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other.

The final rule takes effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. For more information on what constitutes coercion and how to submit a complaint to FMCSA, access www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/coercion.