FMCSA, OSHA Sign Agreement to Protect Drivers From Coercion, Retaliation

The FMCSA and OSHA today announced the agencies have signed an agreement to “to strengthen the  coordination and cooperation between the agencies regarding the anti-retaliation provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). The Memorandum allows for the exchange of safety, coercion and retaliation allegations, when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other.”

“This strengthened partnership with OSHA extends our inter-agency collaboration specifically to include the sharing of reports of alleged coercion – companies forcing or intimidating truck or bus drivers to violate federal safety regulations,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Pressuring drivers to stay behind the wheel beyond their hours-of-service limits, or to disregard other federal safety rules, seriously jeopardizes the safety of every traveler on our highways and roads.  Commercial truck and bus companies that knowingly endanger the motoring public, or retaliate against whistleblowing employees, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) prohibits drivers from being terminated for refusing to drive vehicles that would not meet Federal regulations or if they can reasonably deem that the vehicle poses a safety concern to themselves or others.

“Commercial vehicle drivers who report injuries, hazards and illegal work practices should not fear retaliation for speaking out about unsafe work conditions,”  Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in an earlier statement. “Through this agreement, we are sending a clear message that silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable for workers and also unsafe for the public.”

Protecting drivers and the motoring public falls on both the FMCSA and OSHA’s shoulders.  OSHA investigates employees’s claims of retaliation by carriers  and the FMCSA is responsible for regulating the industry.

Over the last decade, OSHA has processed nearly 3,000 complaints under STAA.

“Recently, OSHA ordered an Iowa waste removal company to reinstate a driver and pay the employee more than $123,000 in compensation after the company terminated the driver for raising safety concerns over company routes that violated U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, potentially causing serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public,” the press release from the FMCSA states.

Under the joint agreement, FMCSA will refer driver’s complaints of retaliation to OSHA.  OSHA will then provide the FMCSA with copies of the complaints so that the FMCSA can investigate the carrier.

To file a claim of retaliation, discrimination or unsafe acts, call 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time, or  submit a complaint via FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint website at:http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations. Additional information is available at: http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.