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Federal Update
Now, about that harassment survey
OOIDA calls it flawed from the start that the FMCSA survey shows driver harassment by motor carriers is common but it fails to tie harassment to the use of electronic logging devices.

By David Tanner, senior editor

What type of drivers are the least likely to report harassment by their motor carriers? Most likely the ones who face the most intimidation, OOIDA recently told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in written comments.

The Association’s comments came in response to an FMCSA survey that showed driver harassment by carriers was common but was not tied to the use of electronic logging devices.

FMCSA commissioned the survey of truck drivers and carriers in response to a congressional directive to issue a final rule on ELDs while making sure the devices are not used to harass drivers.

A contracted company, MaineWay Services, conducted the survey at truck stops. The results demonstrate how potentially tens of thousands of motor carriers are asking or forcing drivers to drive when fatigued, to falsify their logs to absorb delays, or to accommodate unrealistic load schedules at least once or twice a month.

Remarkably, OOIDA says, MaineWay framed the results to say driver harassment is infrequent and not tied to the use of e-logs.

Just seven of the survey’s 14 basic questions about the types of interactions between drivers and motor carriers actually related to harassment.

OOIDA questioned the tactic of asking drivers and motor carriers to self-report their answers without any independent observation or verification of the results.

“Additionally, while some drivers may be comfortable reporting harassment, FMCSA should understand that the drivers who are among the least likely to report harassment are those who face the most intimidation from their carriers and are most likely to experience harassment,” OOIDA stated.

The Association questions why motor carriers were polled at all as part of the survey.

“OOIDA can think of no reason to include in the survey the most likely perpetrators of harassment upon drivers (motor carriers) and ask as many questions about the potential favorable aspects of ELDs as the number of questions about driver harassment using ELDs,” OOIDA stated in its comments. “The inclusion of motor carriers and non-germane questions betrays a bias to minimize the survey’s report of harassment and to gather information in potential support of ELDs.”

OOIDA said survey questions beat around the bush and did not get specific enough about real-world types of driver harassment.

For example, OOIDA says rather than generally asking if motor carriers “ask you to log your hours inaccurately to get more work time or delay a break,” the survey should have asked more specifically if motor carriers “ask you to input to the ELD your duty-status as off-duty, even though you were loading or unloading the truck or performing other work.”

Even though MaineWay Services downplayed the frequency of driver harassment by motor carriers, OOIDA says there’s enough in the survey to show that driver harassment is very real and something to be concerned about.

“This data more than sufficiently illustrates OOIDA’s earlier comments in this rulemaking proceeding that ELDs would become a tool for motor carriers to use to ask drivers to operate longer hours than their professional judgment will support,” OOIDA said. “And this data demonstrates that ELDs are not a panacea to address driver fatigue issues.”

In conclusion, OOIDA says FMCSA should conduct more research into the real problems and cures for driver harassment rather than relying on the MaineWay survey to support future attempts at a final rule.

“Further study is needed to put together an accurate picture of the problem and cures for driver harassment,” OOIDA stated. “Nevertheless, the data collected in this survey documents a widespread and serious problem with harassment affecting hundreds of thousands of drivers each month and demanding a serious regulatory response from FMCSA.”

FMCSA recently announced a timeline for bringing forward a final rule to require truckers to use ELDs. The administration anticipates submitting a final rule to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation in May 2015 and publishing the final rule in the Federal Register by the end of September 2015. LL