FMCSA, OSHA reach accord on coercion retaliation complaints

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two of the nation’s top safety agencies have signed off on a memorandum of understanding to beef up protections for truck drivers who are faced with retaliation or coercion by shippers and motor carriers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the signing on Thursday, July 24. The goal of the agreement is to “facilitate coordination and cooperation” between the agencies, as well as the sharing of information about safety and health allegations received by either agency.

The anti-retaliation and anti-coercion provisions are part of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which protects drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security conditions.

Under the agreement, FMCSA will refer employees who complain of retaliation to OSHA, and OSHA will provide FMCSA with copies of complaints filed and findings issued under STAA. The agencies will also report to each other annually on information shared during the previous year. 

In the statement announcing the signing, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro specifically referenced the sharing of reports of alleged coercion as a benefit to the partnership between the two agencies. The memorandum can be viewed in full here.

“Pressuring drivers to stay behind the wheel beyond their hours-of-service limits, or to disregard other federal safety rules, seriously jeopardizes the safety of every traveler on our highways and roads,” Ferro said in the statement. “Commercial truck and bus companies that knowingly endanger the motoring public, or retaliate against whistleblowing employees, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor, David Michaels, said the agreement sends “a clear message” that commercial vehicles drivers should not be afraid to report unsafe working conditions.

OOIDA’s Government Affairs Director Ryan Bowley said that formalizing information sharing and enforcement duties between the two agencies “just makes sense.”

“A driver who is under pressure from their carrier or another entity to violate safety rules should not have to worry about which agency they call depending upon which rule is at issue – they are facing enough stress,” Bowley said.

“We appreciate Administrator Ferro’s positive action in this area, which touches on issues related to driver detention and driver pay. Professional drivers recognize the connection all of these issues have with highway safety. FMCSA is still working on development of a rule to fully implement the MAP-21 coercion language, and we look forward to providing regulatory comments on their proposal next month,” Bowley said.

According to the release, OSHA has processed more than 2,800 cases under STAA in the last nine years. In April, the agency ordered an Iowa waste removal company to reinstate a driver and pay the employee more than $123,000 in compensation after the company terminated the driver for raising safety concerns over company routes that violated U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.

The public, commercial drivers, motor carriers and other industry members may file a safety, service or discrimination complaint against a household goods moving company, bus or truck company, including hazardous materials hauler or a cargo tank facility, by calling toll free 888-DOT-SAFT (888-368-7238) from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time. Complaints may also be submitted through FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint website.

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