2022 is on Pace to Double Previous High in Number of Coercion Complaints Filed by Truck Drivers

The last couple of years have been a record-breaking gauntlet for the trucking industry. Every week it seems, a headline will reveal some previous and thought-to-be unbreakable record from 2020 or 2021 is now on par to be shattered in 2022.

Such is the case with complaints of coercion filed by truck drivers against employers, shippers, and others.

2022 is on Pace to Double Previous High in Number of Coercion Complaints

Last month, data compiled from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a federal agency under the U.S. DOT, found there have been already 500 complaints filed by truck drivers to the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database (NCCDB). The findings were first reported by Freight Waves.

The FMCSA first began recording coercion complaints back in 2016, so while there are not many past years to compare, there remains a noticeable uptick in filed complaints. With only five months into the year, 2022 is on pace to see double the number of complaints from the previous high of 966 filed in 2019, according to visual data provided by the FMCSA.

What Does the FMCSA Define as Coercion?

In order to hold motor carriers accountable and to get ahead of this problem, the federal agency adopted the Coercion Rule in 2016. This regulation prohibits employers, shippers, and others from coercing drivers to violate hours-of-service limits, CDL regulations, drug and alcohol testing rules, and hazardous materials regulations.

The FMCSA makes it clear that 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).

An example of coercion the FMCSA provides is a motor carrier terminating a driver for refusing to accept a load that would require the driver to violate the hours-of-service requirements.

Supply Chain Issues Play a Role

Such an increase in the number of coercion complaints filed by truck drivers is startling, but maybe not surprising. Current FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations require that truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours a day or work more than 14 consecutive hours.

That said, supply chain snarls and delays have threatened the integrity of these rules as it’s become near impossible for drivers to stay under a 14-hour limit. Business Insider reports that truckers at the nation’s largest ports have waited as long as eight hours to pick up goods. In return, this significant delay in pick up time causes truckers to miss delivery windows and work multiple days on a load that could of otherwise taken less than a day alone.

FMCSA Seeks Improvements to its Complaint Filing Database

Earlier in February of this year, the FMCSA sensed a need to revisit this issue. The federal agency announced that it was expanding efforts to improve its National Consumer Complaint Database (NCCDB), the system created for truckers to file coercion complaints.

Proposed changes to the NCCDB system were laid out in the FMCSA’s information collection request renewal that it had submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review and approval. The agency hopes to renew its information collection so it can use the data to appropriately enforce and better inform FMCSA policies over motor carrier operations.

In a statement reported by Freight Waves, the agency said, “FMCSA is hopeful that the update will improve the adequacy of the database and allow drivers to report harassment, coercion, and additional violations of commercial regulations.”

Final Thoughts

The FMCSA’s proactive pursuit to optimize its NCCDB system perhaps explains such a higher number of coercion complaints filed this year. Aside from supply chain factors that have led to carrier and shipper coercion, truck drivers may have more awareness into which resources to use that will report coercive acts by their employers.

Please do not hesitate to contact one of our team members if you have any further questions on this topic or any others in domestic logistics.

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