Anti-coercion rule comments: Carriers want protection, drivers unhappy with burden of proof

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Updated Aug 7, 2014

dockPublic comments so far are split various ways on the proposed federal rule that prohibits carriers, shippers, brokers and others from coercing drivers into operating their trucks beyond hours of service limits or against other regulations.

Two key arguments have emerged: One contending the rule is past due and that the agency should do more to hold shippers and receivers accountable, and the other saying the rule is a good idea but places the burden of proof of coercion on truck operators, thereby undermining its purpose.

The public comment period on the anti-coercion rule ends Aug. 11. Click here to comment on the rule. 

One commenter, seemingly a carrier or dispatcher, also says the final version of the rule should include protection for employers or dispatchers “from drivers who want to use this rule to cover their own lack of communication or lack of proper calculation.” The burden of proper HOS maintenance is on the driver, says the commenter, Sharon McDonald:

“It has been my experience that the drivers that are out of hours do not inform the dispatcher they are out of hours when they are called for a job. Most dispatchers are not able to keep up with all the drivers’ HOS and should not be responsible to. A driver should be responsible for his own HOS calculations and should inform the dispatcher if he is out of hours. If a driver fails to inform a dispatcher they don’t have adequate hours, they can blame the dispatcher for dispatching them on a job when they get caught.”

Other commenters have said the rule is a redundancy and unnecessary, as federal rules already protect drivers from coercion to drive when they legally can’t or say they’re unable.

Driver commenters, however, mostly seem supportive of the rule’s intent, though several take issue with the fact that the burden of proof of coercion is with drivers.

For instance, a public commenter whose name is listed as Brian says as long as the onus is on drivers to prove they were coerced, the rule won’t have much effect:

“I applaud the effort to end coercion that puts truck drivers in the position of either breaking the rules or being fired,” he writes, “but if you don’t put the burden of proof on the carrier or dispatcher, then it’s the driver’s word against the company, and the driver still ends up being punished. I have been told multiple times to falsify my logbook (which I won’t do) and have paid the price in lost wages, but it’s just my word so who is going to do anything about it unless I have written evidence to back up my claim?”

Similarly, commenter David Brown called the rule “hogwash,” pointing to the driver’s responsibility to prove his or her claim as the reason.

“A much more simpler way would be to have the shipper timestamp the document and have the drivers’ logs show the actual time of arrival,” he wrote. “Charge $100 per hour from the time of appointment or arrival at the shipper or receiver and this will stop the coercion issues.”

He also added some words of encouragement for FMCSA, regarding their resistance to regulate shippers and receivers: “And yes, you can dictate this. Just say it’s a safety issue and mandate it. Quit trying to regulate on the sidelines and get in the game.”

Regarding actually proving coercion claims, commenter Robert wrote drivers should record all conversions with dispatchers, brokers and shippers. He also says the rule should include language that guarantees “any proof provided” can be used in claims.

Commenter David Spiegel said FMCSA’s rule should put more accountability on carriers, shippers and receivers, however:

“The vast majority of drivers are tired of customers and carriers being able to threaten us in various ways without any accountability. Such actions represent a clear danger and even honest carriers are powerless to affect customer abuse of drivers. If this rule is implemented, you will send a strong message that drivers absolutely must be allowed to operate safe and legal. Many shippers and receivers will sternly oppose this because they like being able to avoid accountability for their actions and they like pushing drivers around without consequence. Pass this rule and make customers respect the rule of law that drivers have to. They are part of the industry so they must must be regulated as well.”

The comment period on the rule ends Aug. 11. Click here to comment.

Click here to see prior CCJ coverage of the rule for more information.