We get lots of questions that begin with, “What should I do if ...?” so I thought I’d share a few of them. When faced with the number and variety of circumstances most truckers encounter on a regular basis, it’s often overwhelming, and virtually impossible to know what to do in every situation. Perhaps you have encountered similar situations and will find the responses helpful.
Question: What should I do if my motor carrier pushes me to violate the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations?
Answer: Refuse to do it! When you refuse to violate the law, you have protection under Section 405 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (49 U.S.C. 31105) against retaliation from motor carriers. It’s the Department of Labor (specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) that is responsible for enforcing your protections.
Although owner-operators are generally not considered employees, OSHA definition 1978.101(d) states:
“Employee” means (1) a driver of a commercial motor vehicle (including an independent contractor while in the course of personally operating a commercial motor vehicle); (2) a mechanic; (3) a freight handler; or (4) any individual other than an employer; who is employed by a commercial motor carrier and who in the course of his employment directly affects commercial motor vehicle safety, but such term does not include an employee of the United States, any State, or a Political subdivision of a State who is acting within the course of such employment.”
According to this definition, it doesn’t matter if you are a leased owner-operator or a company driver; since you operate the vehicle, you are protected under the law. Here are your protections under Section 31105:
(a) Prohibitions — (1) A person may not discharge an employee, or discipline or discriminate against an employee regarding pay, terms, or privileges of employment, because —
(A) the employee, or another person at the employee’s request, has filed a complaint or begun a proceeding related to a violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety regulation, standard, or order, or has testified or will testify in such a proceeding; or
(B) the employee refuses to operate a vehicle because —
(i) the operation violates a regulation, standard, or order of the United States related to commercial motor vehicle safety or health; or
(ii) the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle’s unsafe condition.
If any of these protections have been violated, contact OOIDA’s Business Services department by calling 1-800-444-5791 without delay. Representatives can evaluate your complaint and determine the best course of action. In addition, you should document everything, including dates, times, names and locations. Make a detailed record of any conversations you have with company representatives and save any written memos from them that may help to prove your word against theirs.
Question: What should I do if a law-enforcement officer takes a page from my logbook for evidence?
Answer: You should create another original that duplicates the page seized by the officer. Note in the remarks that the first original was taken by a law-enforcement officer, and also explain the circumstances. In addition, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask the officer to sign off on the new original.
Question: What should I do if the company I’m leased to won’t pay me until they get paid?
Answer: Since Federal Truth-in-Leasing Regulations require payment be made within 15 days after submission of the necessary delivery documents and other paperwork concerning a trip in the service of the authorized carrier, you should let the carrier know it is in violation. Show your company representative a copy of the regulations and ask him/her to comply with them. If the carrier still refuses to comply, you must decide whether you want to continue to be leased to a company who has no respect for your rights.
You also have legal recourse, which means you can exercise your private right of action and take the carrier to court. If you win, you’ll be able to recoup your legal expenses as well as any money owed to you.
Many OOIDA members have turned to our Business Services department for collection assistance. OOIDA’s representatives have been very successful in helping members collect money that is owed to them, so you may want to contact our Business Services department to discuss your situation to see if the issue can be resolved outside of court.
Question: What should I do if my motor carrier voided the lease contract that I have been operating under and they still have not provided me with a copy of the new lease?
Answer: If you are running under a motor carrier’s authority as a leased owner-operator, you should have a written lease. If the old one was voided, a new lease should be provided. If not, the company is in violation of the Federal Truth-in-Leasing Regulations.
There should be an original and two copies of the lease that both parties have signed. The carrier keeps the original, you keep a copy, and the other copy is to be kept in the equipment.
You should ask your company for a new lease immediately. Without a lease, there is no documentation to specify contractual obligations, and your rights could easily be violated.
If you have questions that you’d like answered, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to me at PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. Although we won’t be able to publish all questions in Land Line, you will receive a response.