On November 30, 2015 the DOT issued its final rule prohibiting coercion of commercial drivers, which expands the current whistle-blowing provisions jointly administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation via a Memo of Understanding issued last year. The main point of expansion is that now a covered driver is protected not only from discharge, discipline or discrimination for engaging in certain protected activities (focusing on safety regulations issued for this industry), but it now includes “coercion” of such drivers not only as to safety violations, but also as to any violations of commercial regulations that would apply to “motor carriers, shippers, receivers or transportation intermediaries.” The regulations are quite vague regarding what “coercion” shall consist of, stating the DOT will investigate any “non-frivolous” claim that a motor carrier, shipper, receiver or transportation intermediary, or their respective agents, officers, or representatives, have threatened to or actually withheld business, employment or work opportunities from, or taken any adverse employment action against, a driver in order to induce the driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle under conditions in which the driver would be required to violate one or more of the regulations that are codified within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Continue Reading DOT Expands Potential Liability in the Area of Commercial Truck Driving

Proposed House bill 4727 would create a so-called “national hiring standard” for motor carriers which would preclude states from imposing liability on anyone arranging for transportation of goods, i.e. transportation intermediaries such as shippers, brokers and freight forwarders. The bill requires that no more than 35 days prior to pickup of an arranged shipment, such entities verify that a selected carrier: (1) is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to operate as a motor carrier or household goods carrier; (2) has the minimum insurance coverage required by Federal regulation and (3) does not have an unsatisfactory safety rating issued by FMCSA in force at the time of the verification.
Continue Reading Proposed Bill a Win for Transportation Intermediaries

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against truck drivers for reporting safety violations. 29 U.S.C. § 31105. The STAA also protects an employee from termination for refusing to operate a motor vehicle that violates a safety regulation or because the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to him or herself or the public due to an unsafe condition with the vehicle. To obtain protection under the latter section, the employee must have requested that the employer fix the unsafe condition. 
Continue Reading Whistleblower Law Protects Truck Drivers Who Report Safety Violations