Electronic logging devices have numerous benefits. From Hours of Service compliance to the reduction of paperwork to improved efficiency, ELDs are capable of many things. Apart from these benefits, experts believe ELDs can also help drivers with coercion complaints.
John Seidl, a transportation consultant and account executive at Integrated Risk Solutions, recently highlighted this point in a conference call hosted by Stifel Capital Markets. According to John Seidl, electronic logging devices will provide evidence of violations of the coercion rule.
The FMCSA’s definition of coercion
Following is how the FMCSA defines driver coercion:
“Coercion occurs when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) and the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations (FMCCRs). Coercion may be found to have taken place even if a violation has not occurred. An example of coercion is when a motor carrier terminates a driver for refusing to accept a load that would require the driver to violate the Hours of Service requirements.”
In summary, if a driver is pressurized into bending the Hours of Service rules or other regulatory requirements, it will be termed as “coercion.”
Electronic logging devices and coercion complaints
Before electronic logging devices and the ELD mandate, drivers would find it difficult to prove their coercion claims. However, Seidl believes, commercial drivers can now use the ELD data and more easily submit documentation that supports their claims of driver coercion.
There are, however, a few conditions that commercial drivers need to be aware of.
The driver must put the other party (carrier, shipper, receiver) on notice that he or she cannot meet the proposed delivery time without violating Hours of Service regulations or any other regulatory requirements that commercial drivers are subject to. This procedure must be followed. However, if the other party fails to respond to this notice, drivers can file a written complaint to the FMCSA with supporting documentation and data from the ELD.
John Seidl explains this process in the following words:
“They have to object to the shipper’s request and if the shipper fails to respond, then they need to file a written complaint — and they must document it properly. That is where the ELD information comes in. And if the FMCSA receives a written complaint, they have to investigate. And while you guys [trucking companies] are used to being visited by the FMCSA inspectors for safety audits, shippers are not. So this [coercion] rule has impact beyond carriers and drivers.”
Seidl also explained that repeated messages during the driver’s 30-minute break time or sleeper berth period would also be considered as coercion.
“If a driver is required repeatedly to respond to satellite or similar communications received during his or her sleeper berth period, or 30-minute break period, does this activity affect a driver’s duty status? Yes,” Seidl said.
He clarified that “the driver cannot be required to do any work for the motor carrier during sleeper berth time or 30-minute break period. So a driver who is required to access a communications system for the purpose of reading messages for the carrier, responding to certain messages — either verbally or by typing a message or otherwise acknowledging them is performing work.”
For a driver to file a coercion complaint about this, Seidl emphasized that copies of repeated messages will be the key.
“Repeatedly” here means a series of messages and interruptions that prevent the driver from getting the necessary restorative sleep as required by the FMCSA’s regulations.
The ELD mandate, apart from enforcing the FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations, is also going to play a crucial role in minimizing driver coercion and harassment. With accurate ELD data and 100% transparency, shippers and motor carriers won’t be able to coerce drivers into bending the rules. On the other hand, drivers will be able to more easily submit documentation supporting claims of coercion using ELD data.
As mentioned earlier, electronic logging devices have many benefits. Reducing driver coercion is one of them.
If you still haven’t purchased an electronic logging device, try Motive.