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ATA Pleased With US Highway bill; Driver ‘Coercion’ Rule Published

Two significant developments affecting the trucking industry south of the border were recently approved in the U.S.

Both the American Trucking Association (ATA) and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) applauded the approval of a new long-term highway bill Dec. 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Most notably, the bill takes steps to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (CSA) safety monitoring system – something ATA has been urging for years.

“By ordering an evaluation and improvement of CSA, as well as removing the flawed scores the system produces from public view in the meantime, this bill is an important victory for data and accuracy in regulatory oversight,” said Dave Osiechi, ATA executive vice-president and chief of national advocacy. “Similarly, by mandating that the Department of Health and Human Services set standards for hair testing, Congress has given trucking companies a powerful tool to keep habitual drug users out from behind the wheel. These are both important victories for safety.”

The bill – the 2015 FAST Act, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation – calls for the spending of $205 billion on U.S. highways during the next five years, along with nearly $50 billion for transit projects.

ATA chairman Pat Thomas said, “While not perfect, this bill is a tremendous step forward for trucking in many respects and we urge the House and Senate to pass it and President Obama to sign it into law before any more short-term extensions are needed.”

Meanwhile, a new rule meant to protect drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations was published Nov. 30 in the Federal Register.

Known as the “driver coercion” rule, it provides FMCSA with the authority to take action against carriers, shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.

“This Rule enables us to take enforcement action against anyone in the transportation chain who knowingly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of the driver and of the motoring public,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

According to Fleet Owner, The final rule, to take effect 60 days following its publication, addresses three key areas: procedures for commercial truck and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA, steps the agency could take when responding to such allegations, and penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers.

“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,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling.  “No commercial driver should ever feel compelled to bypass important federal safety regulations and potentially endanger the lives of all travelers on the road.”

However, many in the industry have felt driver coercion is a complex problem best solved in the marketplace.

“With the looming shortage of drivers, the market economy will dictate that those shippers that tie up drivers and tractors aren’t going to be well served by the trucking industry,” Transplace CEO Tom Sanderson told Fleet Owner. “Trucking companies today, more so than ever, will not put up with any kind of abuse or coercion by a shipper or broker of their drivers.”

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