Coercion rule comments: Hours still the problem, ‘coercion’ needs definition

| August 26, 2014

XRS in-vehicle EOBR moduleCommon 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.

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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, 90 days from its publication in the Federal Register.

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.

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.”

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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.

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

ATA made similar suggestions in its formal comments, but from the other side of the argument: Without a clear definition, drivers will be able to abuse the rule’s protections, ATA says.

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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 also wants the definition of coercion to be more clearly defined.

It, too, however, said the agency’s attempt to take into account shippers, receivers and intermediaries and the “actions that force driver and carrier violations” is welcomed.

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Driver commenters again emphasized how the hours-of-service rule changes in 2013 are intertwined with this rulemaking, as they have with other proposed rulemakings since the implementation of the rule last year.

Commenter Mark Wieland, for instance, said the hours rule’s “inflexibility” causes coercion. It also puts drivers in unsafe areas when they run out of hours, he wrote: “How many more drivers need to die on some dark street at 2 a.m. before you see it?” Wieland writes. “Do you really think taking a 10-hour break on an Atlanta downtown street because the 14-hour rule elapsed while unloading equals rest? Or would it be better for the driver to head up the road where he can find a shower and well-lit parking?”

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Commenter Grey Kiroff made a similar point. “Coercion is directly correlated to the current form of HOS,” he wrote.

Others, however, harped on accountability of shippers, receivers and brokers and their role in causing drivers to violate federal rules.

“Time has come to put pressure on shippers, receivers and brokers. They are engaged in the same type of business, but don’t [deal with the] burden of regulations over carriers and truck drivers,” wrote an anonymous commenter.

Commenter Erika Riker said drivers and carriers are being held accountable when many times they have “very little control over it…. I agree with directing the consequences in the form of fines to shippers and receivers. Drivers are powerless on so many levels. The treatment of drivers at some facilities is shameful and degrading, I have seen too many drivers pushed around and purposely detained with no recourse and when this happens day after day it works on a person’s state of mind in a very negative way.”

Click here to read prior coverage of the coercion rule comments.

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

Transportation Intermediaries Association

National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council

Trucking Safety Coalition

  • Greg Poplin

    Even though I’m on the receiving end of the changes that will possibly be the result from this discussion, I can’t push the idea that the federal government has zero business in this matter, out of my head.

    This is not proactive discussion on how we can make our roads safer and keep our drivers safer as well as happier, this is reactive blocking to the fact that FMCSA hours of service rules don’t work.

    In so far as the comment about how drivers are treated at shippers and receivers, how does anyone expect any administration to fix that? Bring that to the attention of dispatchers and planners, not government bureaucrats.

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  • Mind Games

    Sorry to tell you this but they DO need to intervene in this matter but sadly they are under the spell of the largest trucking company owners in the industry.
    I would like to see where the log book gets thrown out and those that think they could push us around get a rude awakening when they need to ask when can we be able to pick up and or deliver the freight.
    We could then draw the line in the sand and that’s that.
    Look we already have responsibility for everything else and so why not put the power in the hands of the driver?
    The only difference is that those behind the desk would give us long overdue respect.
    Something that should come with the territory but sadly does not.
    Once we figure out our own system that works best for our own lives we can become more efficient.
    Where the government would come into play is when the threats start and in my plan the fines would make even Satan scream for mercy.

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  • jesse wood

    the 34 hr restart is another example the big companies are telling their drivers that the 34 hr restart is mandatory when it,s not and it,s just an option, you can always sit untill midnight and pick up hrs that you logged 7 days ago

  • MrNA

    You know MindGames i just had a sudden epiphemy thanks to you. How about a ruling that EVERY fine issued to an HOS violation be attached to the prime carrier twenty fold. ??? The pigs have been applying the ideology to drivers with no results so apply it to the carriers and see what happens next. I bet if my idea was put in place we would see sensible changes to the HOS. Anybody reading who can suggest where to park my bandwagon next ?

  • ACII

    I agree with your comment. I have been a trucker for a couple of years now, and I am changing jobs and been train to drive hazmat tankers. The trainer that I have has incurre in so many HOS violations that is not real!! And this company has a CSA safety report of 5%.
    And maybe this is abused due to they still use paper logs. Anyhow, the loads we are getting never have enough time window for deliveries or pickups, and always end up cooking the log book. The drivers are always scruwed so the big company owners can mantain their bank accounts in the Humptons

  • guest

    As long as the shipper and broker can get away with ripping off the driver in the form of Coercion or anything else they will Cheerfully do it! They always have. The industry is Filled with crooked Lowlifes…they love to “Feed” off truckers and screw truckers anyway they can….the industry is a Pile of garbage and always has been with leaching maggots screwing the truck driver.

  • guest

    The big rich mega fleets have trailers being loaded at shippers right now….the driver USUALLY zips in and does a drop and hook..and out the door….the SCHEDULE of pickup and delivery in DOCUMENTED in the screen…Usually LEGAL…no OutlawStuff. Howevernot EVERY trucking company earns over 1 billion annually….so they still operate OLD SCHOOL to some degree….with ELOGS this will be nearly Impossible….Also with Qualcom and Satelite GPS..the Truck is moniotred..IF there is an ACCIDENT…all that monitoring equipment will put the Driver in JAIL. The days of running OUTLAW are numbered….Coercion will ONLY work if the truck driver goes along with it….The truck driver can drop a few dimes and make lifemiserable for the CROOKS trying to screw the driver….those are Old School Methods…vioalting hours of service….Tell the shipper and the broker you have no intention of ending up in Jail.

  • guest

    IF you have an ACCIDENT hauling yer Hazmat and YOU are cooking ur logbook….YOU will be doing some serious time in PRISON…YOU better get in the REAL WORLD amigo.

  • chemsoldier1

    I think many of you have missed the point of this article. I’d like to discuss the two problems this article covers and see where it goes. The two issues that are near and dear to my heart are coercion by the carrier and coercion from shippers/receivers.

    Let’s start with coercion by carriers. I’ve been reading the articles about HOS and the EOBR ever since the new rules were proposed. My main concern with coercion by carriers is that they will put the drivers into situations they have little to no control over and then leave them stranded to figure out their own solution.
    Take this scenario. You’ve been driving all day to meet a delivery appointment and you’ve got one hour left on your 10 and maybe 2-3 left on your 14. Your delivery is NOT a drop and hook but a live unload. You know that chances are great you will be detained past your 14 but dispatch refuses to reschedule for morning and insists that you go. You don’t really have a legal ground to refuse because, as your dispatcher kindly points out, you DO have hours available.

    This is the kind of coercion that OOIDA seems to be worried about. In fact, this was the whole basis for their lawsuit over the EOBR requirement. The concern being that it takes more and more of the decision making ability out of the driver’s hands and gives it to the dispatcher. “Harassment” is a dispatcher being able to call you (or Qualcomm message you) and say “I don’t care if you are tired or just feel you are done for today, you still have hours available and you need to go a little further today.”

    The other side of this coin is holding shippers and receivers accountable for forcing drivers to violate the law. Allow me to explain. Every truck driver on the road who has been in a truck more than a few days has had at least one negative experience with a shipper or receiver. Here is a scenario. You show up at a grocery warehouse to deliver after driving all day. They’ve given you a ridiculous appointment time of 2200 or 2300. You check in at 2100 and they tell you to wait for a dock door. You finally get a door two hours later and then sit on the door for another 2 hours. Now it’s between 0100 and 0200. The lumpers are done, you have your bills, and the customer says you have to leave. You are long since out of your 14, you are downtown in a big city and there’s not even a relatively safe haven nearby. You try explaining to security that you are out of hours and need to finish a 10. They say that’s not their problem and you have to leave. You say you can’t move the truck because of e-logs and they tell you that they have a towing company that will gladly help you move.

    Now you have a major dilemma. You can call the bluff of the customer, which can end in disaster (I’ve seen it happen). You can go out the gate and park down the street against the curb and run the risk of robbery, vandalism, or a parking violation from the local police. Finally, you can go on down the road with the EOBR squawking and steadily recording violations while you look for a safe haven.

    These are the problems faced daily by truck drivers. Now, the “old school” drivers will say that better planning on your part will prevent these types of situations. I say that’s false. The advent of EOBRs and ATA’s push for clarification on “coercion,” are steadily diminishing YOUR old role as captain of your ship. As your decision making latitude is chipped away more and more, you head further towards becoming that so called “trained monkey.”

  • jojo

    Those who claim to be “old school” may blame it on planning (they are probably safety personal), us “ole timers” know better.
    It is up to ME wether or not I break the LAW. Nobody is going to tell me to break the LAW.
    If they want to tow it then it is towed at THEIR Expense and THEY are responsible for any damages.
    Furthermore, I need hotel money and taxi fare to get there as I will not be held hostage by Guard Dogs in MY Truck!
    Could this be a good time to get the truck cops involved?
    You did a great job with your scenarios!!!
    I believe that we need to be able use personal conveyance to move between rest place and work place just as everyone else is allowed to commute between home and work.

  • jojo

    It only takes one or two times of being stuck without pay for 3 days in the middle of nowhere to realize that you have been coerced and nothing can be done about it!

  • My turn

    I have been on the other side of you guys for most of my working life, I am one of the shipper/receiver/coordinators mentioned in the article, I have witnessed first hand the disdain a few have for drivers, Something I have never taken part in, always seen it as without what you do I couldn’t do what I do.
    When it does happen, Sometimes it could be because your shipping or receiving clients dock people or even management are not aware of a drivers federally mandated rules, Other times it is as stated in the article just jerks being jerks..

    Depending on the state and it’s laws and with Gopro cams and similar getting so cheap perhaps starting to record deliveries and interactions with clients wouldn’t be a bad idea, In my state (NC) as long as you are a part of the interaction being recorded it is legal and with a small Gopro on your hat it isn’t like you are hiding it.

  • Scott Hanson

    The problem isn’t coercion per se, but the ridiculous HOS rules in place. If I’m at a shipper for 5 hrs, and nap in my sleeper, then I should be able to gain some drive time. These policies are not real world; they are written by people sitting behind a desk, that hypothesize about how driving works. They have NO CLUE. And they do not want to belittle themselves, by asking drivers about how the real world works. Sad…

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