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The anti-coercion rule is a federal rule that makes it illegal for commercial carriers, shippers, and brokers to pressure truck drivers to operate their vehicles beyond federal regulations. Effective from January 29, 2016, this rule is designed to make trucks safer and to protect truckers from threats of economic harm (loss of business or pay). A trucker who has been coerced can now file complaints for coercion with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Scott Darling, FMCSA Acting Administrator, said this about the anti-coercion rule: “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. No commercial driver should ever feel compelled to bypass important federal safety regulations and potentially endanger the lives of all travelers on the road.”
When does coercion occur?
According to the anti-coercion rule, coercion occurs when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or a transportation intermediary threatens to fire, suspend, withhold work, or punish a truck driver to coerce him to operate a vehicle in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations (FMCCRs), and the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs). Coercion may be deemed to have occurred even if the violation has not taken place.
A truck driver can file a complaint for coercion with the FMCSA if the following has occurred:
- A motor carrier, shipper, receiver or transportation intermediary requests him to perform a task that would result in violation of the provisions of the FMCSRs, FMCCRs and HMRs, such as driving beyond the number of hours allowed by the hours-of-service rule.
- He declines to perform the task on the basis that complying with the request would result in him violating certain provisions of the FMCSRs, FMCCRs, and HMRs.
- The person who made the request then threatens him or takes action against him to force him to comply with his request.
How to file a coercion complaint?
A truck driver can file a coercion complain with the division office of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or with the National Consumer Complaint Database (NCCD). The complaint must be in writing and can be posted by mail.
To be able to file a coercion complaint, the driver must have stated explicitly upon receiving the request that he or she cannot perform the requested task without violating the applicable regulations and that the coercing entity must have explicitly given threats or taken actions against him. However, it is not necessary for violation to have occurred.
In order to ensure that this has happened, the complaint must be accompanied by supporting information as evidence of coercion, such as text messages or email exchanges between the driver and the coercing party, and the names of individuals who may have been a witness to the act of coercion. The complaint must be filed within 90 days of the day the alleged coercion happened.
What are the penalties for coercion?
The FMCSA has set a hefty fine for coercion. If a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or a transportation intermediary is found to have been guilty of coercing a truck driver to perform a task in violation of the FMCSRs, FMCCRs, and HMRs, then he or she may be fined a sum of up to $16,000. However, as of this date, there is no provision for coercion claim since the agency is not in a position to enforce claims.
However, the FMCSA is planning to in conjunction work with the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration of the Department of Labor on coercion claim. This means that in the future, coerced truck drivers will be able to file claims for back wages and punitive damages. You can talk to truck accident lawyers to find out if and how this law can affect your truck accident claim. ?