A Truckers Thoughts On The New Coercion Rules

Topic 13095 | Page 1

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Dutch's Comment
member avatar

I came across this You Tube video today, and thought it might be of interest to some truckers. I have always felt that if a driver was coerced like Alvin Wilkerson was back in 2006, that dispatch should be held accountable to a certain degree. $16,000 might not be prison time, but it just might be enough push to make 95% of the people who work in dispatch stop and give serious consideration to their actions. It may also give attorneys more leverage in civil suits, which can encourage changes in a problem company's policy.

The New Driver Coercion Rule

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

I left a comment for this gentleman on his video and I'll modify it and expand on it a little here.

I think he's giving a somewhat confusing explanation of what forced dispatch is. It has nothing to do with coercion. They are two different things.

He said forced dispatch means the company is forcing you to take a load "If for some reason you don't want to go or you can't go". The confusion comes from the expression "can't go". What does he mean they can't go? They can't take it for legal reasons? They can't take it cuz their toe hurts? They can't take it because Monday Night Football is on tonight? What does he mean by that? It sounds like he may be saying that forcing you to take a load that you can not do safely and legally is forced dispatch but that's not forced dispatch - that's coercion.

Here are the basic definitions:

Forced Dispatch

If a driver does not want to haul a load but would be able to do it safely and legally then the company can require them to take the load. That's forced dispatch and it is perfectly legal.

Coercion

If a driver can not haul a load safely and legally but the company tries to force them to do it anyhow then that is coercion and that is illegal.

Here are the FMCSA's requirements for something to be considered coercion:

The following must have occurred in order for coercion to have existed:

  • A motor carrier, shipper , receiver, or transportation intermediary request a driver to perform a task that would result in the driver violating certain provisions of the FMCSRs, HMRs, or the FMCCRs
  • The driver informs the motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary of the violation that would occur if the task is performed, such as driving over the hours of service limits or creating unsafe driving conditions; and
  • The motor carrier shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary make a threat or take action against the driver’s employment or work opportunities to get the driver to take the load despite the regulatory violation that would occur.

So I want to make sure people understand that this rule does not mean you can start cherry picking only the loads you want to haul and refuse to haul a load if you don't want to. That's not the definition nor the intent of the coercion law. Forced dispatch means they can require you to take a load if you can do so safely and legally. Coercion means they're trying to force you to take a load you can not take safely and legally. That's two different things.

I also wanted to mention a situation that's going to come up a lot. It's called re-powering a load which simply means one driver is handing the load off to another driver. So you might pick up a load in Dallas going to Chicago but the company tells you to meet another driver in Memphis to re-power the load. He'll take your load and you'll get something else.

The reason I mention this is because re-powering is a common and effective way for companies to deal with a driver that is low on hours. Say you only have 4 hours available on your clock for the next 12 hours but they want you to pick up a load that delivers 5 hours away in 9 hours. You can't legally do it, right? But what you can legally do is go pick up that load and start running with it while they find someone for you to hand it off to. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. That is not considered coercion because they're not going to force you to run illegally. They are going to force you to pick up that load and run with it as far as you can legally though which is considered forced dispatch and that's common and perfectly legal.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

I think Brett clarifies the difference between "coercion" and "forced dispatch".

Most companies do not operate their company drivers & lease ops off a load board - where you can pick and choose your load. Planners and DM's see where the freight needs to go, what equipment is available to get it there, and assign loads to equipment. This is a HUGE CHESS GAME, moving pieces around the country in the most efficient manner (efficiency means PROFIT for the company - PROFIT MEANS BONUS'S for planners/etc.).

With the advent of elogs - it's gotten a lot better as to load assignments, as at least the DM can see whether or not the driver can realistically run the load legally.

Coercion would be making you move a load when you are out of hours to legally move it AT THE TIME YOU ARE INSTRUCTED TO - not whether you're going to run out of hours TOMORROW, and it may have to be relayed or re-powered to make delivery.

Coercion could also be a leaky brake chamber on a trailer, and being instructed to move it anyway. Anything that would be an OOS defect on a pre-trip, and being told to move it anyway, would be coercion. Having a light out, or a missing mud flap - and being told to go to the nearest Pilot to get it fixed, would likely NOT BE coercion.

And coercion usually has to have an OR ELSE COMPONENT TO IT. The cases I've seen settled in the past - were because a driver was FIRED for refusing to be coerced into moving a load.

Here's where they "grey areas" come in. People that are "problem children" don't necessarily have to be FIRED on the spot. And by "problem children", I don't mean people that refuse to run illegally - but folks that constantly find reasons not to run, even though they COULD DO SO LEGALLY. I can see these "problem children" using the coercion rule as a CONSTANT THREAT against their DM's when they "don't feel like" running (hey, are you COERCING ME Mr. DM?).

Turning down loads a lot, because you don't think you have time to complete the delivery - but you DO have time to get it moving - is going to result in that driver doing A LOT OF SITTING. Sitting is not EARNING - and eventually that driver will quit (more often than not, abandoning the equipment and ending up blacklisted in the industry). We've heard stories of drivers getting "frozen out" - and this is usually not from a refusal to be coerced, but consistent poor performance and attitude.

This is where another topic discussed recently comes into play - COMMUNICATION. Communicate CLEARLY AND PROFESSIONALLY with you DM. Manage your time properly and adequately. If you're running on RE-CAP HOURS CONSTANTLY, you might want to have a look at your time management techniques. If you don't have enough hours to complete the load, let your DM know immediately that you can pick up up and get it rolling - but you might have to hand it off because of your hours. Communicate and work WITH your DM (not AGAINST THEM), and they'll work to keep you moving (and earning).

Rick

Elog:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

Elogs:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Sam the Wrestler's Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the infor, great stuff.

Dutch's Comment
member avatar

Great feedback guys! I suppose he had good intentions with making the video, just didn't clarify everything as thoroughly as he should have.

Most Load Planners and DM's will cut a driver a break from time to time, regardless of the reason they give for not taking a load. The question usually is, do they regularly run average or above average miles, and do they always make on time delivery.

What I would like to stress to any driver, is to know the law, and stand your ground anytime you are requested to put your license in jeopardy. If a driver doesn't take the time to learn the law, they won't know for certain in some instances, whether or not they are breaking the law when a specific request is made. Some DM's and other folks who work in dispatch, will test a driver by requesting them to do certain things, like run with their tandems all the way to the rear, in order to make legal weight per axle. If the driver doesn't make it a priority to know the bridge laws from state to state, how are they going to respond with confidence that they are being asked to run illegally. Not knowing the law for certain, means most drivers will cave in to the DM , Load Planners, or customers request.

I had the Head of Operations once ask me to run a load through 5 states with my tandems all the way back, during a phone conversation. He went into detail about how California and Florida are the states most likely to issue a citation for this, hoping to alleviate any concerns I had, even though he knew I would be running through more than one state illegally.

With todays technology, a driver can be caught for multiple infractions, while being weighed in motion, so it's best to have everything in order, when you hit that scale house or inspection station.

You can bet, when DOT issues a citation, and the driver respond's that they "Didn't know," they will probably be told ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jrod's Comment
member avatar

I think it is really simple - make all FMCSA/HOS violations go 100% on the companies. Increase the fines.

You want companies to comply? Hit them in the wallet. They will police their drivers just fine if they are threatened with a hefty fine.

The drawback? More micromanagement for the truckers from their DMs.

If the company wants to take a risk and ask/force a driver to go past the legal limits? The driver now has two options:

1. If you have the energy, Just Do it, and get it in writing - Qualcomm , Text, Email. You get the miles, get the money, and keep your DM/boss happy. All while knowing that if you get caught, your company is on the hook, not you. Everyone knows the deal. And you get to feel like a BAMF Outlaw Trucker from before all the "computers ruined everything!"

2. Tell your boss you are out of hours and can't legally or safely make the trip. If they still tell you to go, Call DOT and report it. They love collecting fines. Or just roll up to the next weigh station and let them know you are driving past what your hours allow. All fines and Points go on the company and not the driver under the new rules of "the Company is always at fault for HOS violations".

I bet you HOS violations would drop dramatically in just a few weeks. Some drivers and companies will have "wink wink, nudge nudge" agreements, sure. But they would only be with the drivers they know can handle it. (its that grey area everyone loves to play in, but with the catch that the BIG wallet has to take the hit if they get caught, not the current policy of "make the driver the Fall Guy") Fatigued Driving accidents would drop. Trucker Fatalities would drop. Groups like "Soccer Moms Against Truckers" would be happier and quit writing to congress so often.

Now Sure, some drivers would think to use it to "get back" at their company if they feel like they were wronged about something, but those drivers are going to struggle to find employment with a legitimate company after their Employment Verification/DAC report says something like "HOS Blackmail" which would be the new equivalent of "Abandoned Load".

Again - companies, even small ones, are capable and willing to enforce the rules if it is going to help/hurt their bottom line.

The ones that don't? They will go the way of Celadon, GDS Express, HVH, Rich Logistics, LME, NEMF, etc...(just to tie this together with the sad year of 2019...)

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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