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Dealing With Coercion in Trucking

Truck drivers often face significant challenges, including coercion from various parties such as employers, shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries (e.g., brokers). Coercion is often described as the use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance, where one person attempts to persuade another to do something questionable that they don't want to do. Understanding the types of coercion that exist in trucking and how to combat them is crucial for maintaining a safe and ethical working environment for truck drivers.

What is Coercion in Trucking?

According to the FMCSA, Coercion is, “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).”

It's important to note that coercion can be identified even if an actual regulatory violation has not taken place.

Types of Coercion

Coercion by Employers:

  • Unreasonable Demands: 

    • Employers may pressure drivers to violate hours-of-service or safety regulations, leading to dangerous driving conditions.

  • Threats of Job Loss: 

    • Some companies use the threat of termination to coerce drivers into accepting unsafe work conditions or illegal activities.

  • Demotions or Pay Cuts:

    • Threatening to demote drivers, reduce their pay, or cut their working hours if they refuse to drive beyond legal limits, take unsafe routes, or not adhere to safety standards.

Coercion by Shippers, Receivers, or Intermediaries:

  • Threats to Withhold Future Work or Payment:

    • Shippers may threaten to withhold future loads or payment if a driver refuses to violate hours-of-service regulations or other safety rules.

    • Drivers may be told they won't be offered lucrative or preferred loads if they don't comply with unsafe demands.

  • Punitive Measures:

    • Imposing financial penalties or fines on drivers who adhere to safety regulations and refuse to compromise on safety.

    • Giving negative reviews or reports for drivers who refuse to violate regulations.

  • Intimidation and Harassment:

    • Using aggressive or abusive language to pressure drivers into violating regulations.

    • Engaging in bullying tactics or creating an intimidating atmosphere to coerce compliance with unsafe practices.

  • Unrealistic Deadlines:

    • Imposing deadlines that can only be met by violating hours-of-service regulations or speeding, thus putting pressure on drivers to compromise safety.

    • Demanding just-in-time deliveries without considering the legal driving limits and necessary rest periods for drivers.

How to File a Coercion Complaint with the FMCSA

Coercion complaints can be filed with the FMCSA but must be filed within 90 days of the alleged coercion action and must be in writing.

It is crucial to include as much supporting evidence as possible such as text messages, emails, or other forms of communication between yourself and other parties. You should also include any witnesses and their details.  

Complaints can be mailed to the Division Office in your state of employment or filed with the National Consumer Complaint Database.

What is the Fine for Coercion?

Typically, the fine for coercion can cost a business up to $16,000 and is paid to the FMCSA.

How Can Drivers Protect Themselves Against Coercion?

  1. Educate yourself about your rights and the legal aspects of coercion and threats in the workplace.

  2. Advocate for a confidential reporting system or understand your company’s reporting process for incidents of threats or coercion.

  3. Document EVERYTHING! All communication exchanges and evidence related to the incident.

  4. Be sure to have evidence of your objection to the violation. This is crucial.

Coercion in the trucking industry not only undermines the safety and well-being of drivers but also violates federal regulations designed to protect them. Understanding what coercion is, recognizing its various forms, and knowing how to file a complaint are essential steps in combating this issue. By educating yourself about your rights, documenting all relevant incidents, and utilizing available reporting mechanisms, you can protect yourself.


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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. Contents may not be relied upon as a substitute for the FMCSA's published regulations. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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