Righteous whistleblower or ‘disgruntled employee’?

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Previous piece in this feature package: Parties other than carriers now subject to enforcement under the coercion rule

Kevin Hosea, an Iowa-based 30-plus-year CDL driver, was fired from his stint at Warm Trucking, a small dry van hauler in the same state. He subsequently reported the firing and events leading up to it as coercive acts.

According to Hosea, he was coerced to violate the hours of service rule, sometimes with back-office log edits to attempt to hide the truth. Owner Mark Warm flatly denies this and any wrongdoing toward Hosea or others at the company.

Hosea says the problem is larger than the one incident. “My safety manager/dispatcher highly encouraged and at times demanded that I run illegal,” he says. Over his nearly two years with the fleet, he complied more than once, though he’s naturally risk-averse. “I’m a very nervous Nellie driving by a scale with my log off or over my hours — if I knew the weigh station was closed, it’d still about burn a hole in my stomach.”

A dispute between Kevin Hosea (pictured) and the small-fleet employer who fired him shows the complexity of coercion-related cases. Fleet owner Mark Warm denies allegations of coercion.A dispute between Kevin Hosea (pictured) and the small-fleet employer who fired him shows the complexity of coercion-related cases. Fleet owner Mark Warm denies allegations of coercion.

He began to push back. The final straw came in May when a dispatcher put Hosea on a run that likely would force him to exceed legal hours and possibly make him miss a medical appointment he’d notified his fleet about days in advance. He refused the dispatch, headed home and soon was fired. Months later, he found work elsewhere.

Hosea filed a coercion complaint after his firing, with some evidence, he says. He enlisted attorney Paul Taylor to help with a separate Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaint.

“FMCSA is just sitting on this,” Hosea told Overdrive in July. This was after an initial call with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Iowa division office in May, a week after his firing: “The guy was overly nice and full of questions. ‘We’ll go in and do an audit,’ he said. ‘[The carrier] will get slapped with some fines, and we’ll give him a chance to straighten out.’ ”

When Hosea checked months later, an FMCSA Iowa division representative was singing a different tune. “DOT told me I looked like a disgruntled employee,” he says.

This six-feature package examines outcomes over the four years the FMCSA’s Coercion Rule has been in place. See navigation options at the bottom of the story to examine the remainder of the reporting. Access a list of all stories in the package via this link.This six-feature package examines outcomes over the four years the FMCSA’s Coercion Rule has been in place. See navigation options at the bottom of the story to examine the remainder of the reporting. Access a list of all stories in the package via this link.

That’s just what owner Warm, who’s been in the trucking business for more than 25 years, calls Hosea. Warm denies that anyone with the fleet ever coerced any driver to do anything illegal. Hosea is “trying to smear my name,” Warm says.

What precipitated Hosea’s firing, in Warm’s view, was his rash decision to head home before even trying to work through dispatch to solve his scheduling problem.

Furthermore, Hosea has “tried to pull a power trip,” says Warm, by filing complaints everywhere he can. “He went through Iowa Workforce Development for his unemployment” and was denied.

Unemployment claims in Iowa are successful only if the loss of work was through no fault of the employee. Hosea says Warm’s depiction of his firing as causal — for “insubordination” — had the desired result.

When Hosea checked in with state and federal enforcement personnel in Iowa in September, he was assured that roadside checks on the carrier’s rigs were beginning and that FMCSA was still investigating Hosea’s allegations of hours violations.

As of early November, Warm Trucking trucks had been inspected 11 times since Hosea’s firing. Three inspections occurred in Iowa, one noting a high-severity-weighted false-log violation. FMCSA’s own off-site audit, a non-ratable review — meaning an investigation of the carrier that would not result in a safety rating change — was conducted Sept. 17. The case is not closed. As in other such cases, the carrier has an opportunity to correct problems noted and some due process on violations alleged.

According to a copy of the off-site investigator’s report obtained by Overdrive through the Freedom of Information Act, alleged violations included 11 instances of a single driver operating beyond the limits of the 14-hour on-duty clock and 11 instances of violating the 11-hour daily maximum drive limit, among seven drivers’ logs examined. The company employed 24 drivers at the time.

Three of the drive-time violations alleged are deemed “egregious” in the report, and the investigator recommended fines. Coercion itself was not listed among alleged violations, and Warm continued to deny any coercion. He would not comment on other violations.

Most of the violations noted were found in just one of the sample drivers’ logs, excepting false-log allegations in all seven of those sampled. False-log examples cited include alleged improper use of personal conveyance and fuel transactions conducted while logged off duty.

Hosea’s OSHA case, meanwhile, is still in progress.

Read next: How to file a coercion or harassment complaint

Also in this package: 

Cracks in the system: Blowing the whistle on coercion

The irony of e-logging and coercion: Complaints on a steady rise since mandate

Drivers citing coercion face an uphill battle

Parties other than carriers now subject to enforcement under the coercion rule

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