The FMCSA’s Definition of Coercion:
“Coercion occurs when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) and the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations (FMCCRs). Coercion may be found to have taken place even if a violation has not occurred. An example of coercion is when a motor carrier terminates a driver for refusing to accept a load that would require the driver to violate the hours of service requirements.”
In summary – if a driver is pressured into bending the hours-of-service rules or regulatory requirements, it will be termed as “coercion.”
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) will provide driver with evidence of violations of the coercion rule. There are, however, a few conditions that commercial drivers need to be aware of:
If the driver is not going to make the proposed delivery time he or she must inform the carrier, shipper, and receiver that they cannot meet the proposed delivery time without violating hours-of-service regulations or any other regulatory requirements that drivers are subject to.
However, if the other party(s) fail to respond to the notice from the driver, drivers can file a written complaint to the FMCSA with supporting documentation and data from the ELD. If the FMCSA receives a written complaint, they have to investigate the violation. And while carriers are used to being visited by the FMCSA inspectors for safety audits, shippers are not.
Another area in which shippers should be aware of, that it also can be considered coercion if the driver is required to repeatedly respond to satellite or similar communications received during their sleeper berth period or 30-minute break period. The driver cannot be required to do ANY work during these periods of rest. Thus a driver that is required to respond either verbally, electronically, or otherwise he/she will be deemed as performing work duties.
In conclusion: The ELD mandate, apart from enforcing the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations, is also going to play a crucial role in minimizing driver coercion and harassment. With accurate ELD data and 100% transparency, shippers and motor carriers will not be able to coerce drivers into “bending” the rules.
FMI clients should know that in an attempt to prevent FMI from hiring a carrier / co-broker that may utilize a driver that will not meet the hours-of-service regulations and/or the ELD mandate the two following mandates have been included in our Carrier / Co-Broker contracts.