Our Miami tractor-trailer accident lawyers recognize the principles of simple physics dictate that a motor vehicle collision between a 3,000-pound economy car and an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer often results in tragic consequences for the occupants of the passenger car. Despite the extensive state and federal regulations that govern the trucking industry, commercial carriers possess strong financial motivations to cut corners and disregard safety regulations.
In the pursuit of profits, trucking companies often compel their truck driver to ignore or skirt trucking regulations. Compliance from commercial drivers typically can be obtained by company practices or unwritten policies directing drivers to engage in conduct that amounts to a violation. Alternatively, commercial carriers often construct compensation plans that reward drivers for meeting unrealistic shipping schedules that virtually necessitate non-compliance with anti-fatigue hours of service (HOS) rules. In this blog, our Florida trucking accident attorneys want to let the public know about a new proposed trucking regulation designed to ban trucking companies from coercing drivers into violating safety regulations.
The new regulation dubbed the “Anti-Coercion Rule” became effective on January 26, 2016. Under the rule, substantial fines can be imposed on brokers, carriers, receivers, and shippers that attempt to “coerce” a driver to violate federal safety regulations. The regulations define “coercion” as making a threat to impose detrimental employment consequences to induce a driver to engage in practices that violate federal safety regulations. If adverse employment action is taken against a driver for complying with such regulations, this conduct also warrants a penalty. According to proponents of the new regulation, the objective was to protect the public from unsafe practices while protecting commercial drivers from subtle pressure to place profits over safety. The regulations extend not just to commercial carriers but all entities because drivers complained about receiving pressure from all entities involved in the transportation chain.
When an entity is found to violate this statute, the driver must make a complaint to the Federal Carriers Safety Administration’s National Consumer Complaint Database or an Area Administrator within ninety days of the imposition of coercion. The complaint must specify that the load could not be delivered without violation of federal safety regulations and that the driver received an explicit threat of adverse economic consequences. If the complaint is determined to be valid, the entity that made the threat or took adverse action faces a maximum fine up to $16,000. Depending on the situation, the FMCSA also can impose additional consequences. The agency “may” initiate an action to revoke a for-hire carrier’s operating authority.
Although only time will tell whether the regulation provides an effective deterrent to violations, many trucking safety practices are subject to federal trucking regulations, including but not limited to the following:
- Mandatory testing and enforcement of bans on drug or alcohol use by drivers
- Hours of service rules that prevent fatigue and mandate minimum rest periods and off-duty times
- Inspection and maintenance of commercial trucks
- Maximum length and weight requirements
- Requirements for safe securing of loads
- Recordkeeping requirements to preserve evidence of safety violations and causes of accidents
- Rules regarding medical qualification to operate commercial trucks
- Imposition of pre-employment screening and background checks
While the regulation is well-intentioned, the regulation is somewhat analogous to a whistleblower law. Time will tell whether drivers are willing to disclose threats given the possibility of subtle adverse actions taken by an employer for disclosing the prohibited coercion. If you are injured in a trucking accident, our Miami tractor-trailer accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. With over 130 collective years of experience representing policyholders across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our Florida trucking accident attorneys to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.