Trucker's fatigue case should be reconsidered, appeals court says

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A federal appeals court granted a truck driver’s petition for review, ordering the U.S. Secretary of Labor to reconsider the trucker’s claim that he was fired by St. Louis-based CPC Logistics Inc. for taking rest breaks.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., unanimously decided on Sept. 5 that an administrative law judge of the Department of Labor improperly discredited the testimony of truck driver Roderick Carter.

“We grant Carter’s petition for review and remand for the secretary to reconsider Carter’s refusal-to-drive claim against CPC in light of CPC’s statements that Carter reported taking fatigue breaks to CPC management when asked about his delays and that Carter’s delays were a factor in his termination.”

Carter originally filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging that CPC Logistics; CPC Medical Products LLC, St. Paul, Minn.; and Hospira Fleet Services LLC, Lake Forest, Ill., violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 by terminating him from his job as a truck driver for engaging in the protected activity of taking breaks when he became too tired to safely drive.

After OSHA dismissed the complaint, Carter requested a hearing before an administrative law judge with the Department of Labor. The administrative law judge determined that Carter’s testimony wasn’t credible. The Administrative Review Board agreed and affirmed the dismissal of Carter’s complaint. It was also determined that CPC was Carter’s employer, and Hospira was dismissed from the case.

As part of the appeal, Carter contended that his testimony was improperly discredited and that he told supervisors that he needed to take breaks because he was fatigued.

“Our review of the record leads us to agree with Carter that the administrative law judge overlooked important evidence in considering this issue, and therefore we grant Carter’s petition for review and remand for further proceedings,” the court wrote.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for refusing to operate a vehicle because “the operation violates a regulation, standard or order of the United States related to commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security.” Driver fatigue falls within the protection of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

CPC’s position statement to OSHA acknowledged that Carter mentioned fatigue breaks to two supervisors when questioned about his performance.

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