Who’s to blame when a driver is out on the road well beyond his or her hours of service limits? Is it the driver, or should investigators be looking more closely at the people standing behind truckers, like carriers, shippers, and brokers?
Right now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) is considering a rule that would bar carriers, shippers, and brokers from coercing drivers “with loss of work or other economic opportunities for refusing to operate … under circumstances that those entities knew or should have known would require a driver” to violate FMCSA rules pertaining to service hour limits or drug and alcohol use.
On the surface the rule appears a step in the right direction, but it remains controversial because it requires drivers clearly prove they were coerced into working beyond their service limits. Many truck drivers believe the burden of proof must be shifted from the driver to the carrier or dispatcher.
“If you don’t put the burden of proof on the carrier or dispatcher, then it’s the driver’s word against the company, and the driver still ends up being punished,” one truck driver noted on the Overdrive Online blog. “I have been told multiple times to falsify my logbook (which I won’t do) and have paid the price in lost wages, but it’s just my word so who is going to do anything about it unless I have written evidence to back up my claim?”
Drivers feel there’s a better way to keep everyone honest. They suggest requiring a shipper to timestamp shipping documents and require drivers’ logbooks show the time their truck arrived at a destination. “Charge $100 per hour from the time of appointment or arrival at the shipper or receiver and this will stop the coercion issues,” another driver insisted.
Many truck drivers also feel it’s critical that drivers carefully record their conversations with dispatchers, brokers, and shippers — just in case a dispute arises. Some applications, such as BigRoad, allow drivers and fleets to communicate with one another with each message electronically archived. Drivers can even take photographs of their documentation, like gas receipts, to show their time and location. It’s a system that keeps both drivers and fleets honest and happy.
In any case, most truck drivers agree that legislation preventing coercion of drivers is long overdue. “Many shippers and receivers will sternly oppose this because they like being able to avoid accountability for their actions and they like pushing drivers around without consequence,” one driver asserted. “Pass this rule and make customers respect the rule of law that drivers have to.”