Regulatory comments: Hours rule forces coercion; shippers, brokers need accountability

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Updated Aug 27, 2014

truck-at-dockCommon themes of regulatory criticism popped up often in the public comments offered on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed driver coercion prohibition rule, chief among them being the new pressures and restrictions caused by the agency’s 2013 hours-of-service rule.

Second to that — and more pressed by comments by industry trade groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations — was the need for accountability of shippers and receivers who can cause or push drivers to violate federal safety laws.

The comment period on the proposed rule ended Aug. 11.

As noted in prior coverage of public comments leading up to the Aug. 11 deadline, the burden of proof of coercion will be placed on the driver making the claim, which was a point of contention with several commenters.

ATA in its formal comments also says the agency needs to better define “coercion” as it’s used in the rule and the protocol that will be used to bring and determine claims from drivers of coercion.

Without a clear definition, drivers will be able to abuse the rule’s intended protections, ATA says in its comments.

Likewise, it is a point of contention with OOIDA, who also takes issue with what it calls an unclear and overly narrow definition of coercion itself. ATA suggests FMCSA include a requirement in the rule that drivers make a written objection at the time of the incident that includes what regulations would be violated if they proceeded to drive.

ATA, however, did say it supports the agency’s efforts to regulate shippers, receivers and intermediaries and the “actions that force driver and carrier violations.”

OOIDA also would like to see a change to the definition of “coercion,” but it is pushing the agency to make it more expansive.

The definition should be broader and include more specifics on all negative economic impacts that carriers, shippers, receivers or brokers can use to threaten or harm drivers, as well as more specifics on conditions that would cause drivers to refuse or wish not to drive, OOIDA wrote in its comments.

OOIDA also says the agency must be more specific about what evidence drivers can provide to prove coercion.

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The group, however, also applauded the agency for making an attempt to “address the causes of violations…rather than merely interdicting violations after they have occurred,” it writes.

Click here to see CCJ‘s coverage of prior comments on the rule.

Here’s a list of the other trucking-related trade groups who filed formal comments. Click each to read their comments:

Transportation Intermediaries Association

National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council

Trucking Safety Coalition