The data is in. More reported complaints against motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries occurred in the first quarter of 2022 than in all of 2017. As of April 8th, drivers had issued more than 500 complaints of coercion to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If this trend continues, we could see record-breaking numbers by the end of the year. In 2019, the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database received 966 complaints. The most since recording began in 2016. If trends continue, we could see over 1800 complaints by the end of the year. That would double the number in 2019. There’s obviously an issue of coercion in the commercial trucking industry. The evidence is clear, the signs are everywhere, but is anybody doing anything to help?
The problem of coercion is nothing new. In 2016, the FMCSA saw the issue and began tracking the numbers to help identify the problem. These issues prohibit employers, shippers, and others from making a driver violate their hours. This is also called “ELD coercion,” named for the electronic logging devices that drivers use to schedule their routes. Other problems consisted of making drivers disobey their commercial driver’s license (CDL) regulations, drug and alcohol testing rules, and others. The FMCSA can then issue penalties or fines against companies that engage in coercion.
What is coercion?
Coercion is when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or a transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to violate certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). This could happen when a driver is forced to break any rules or regulations of the FMCSR, HMR, or FMCCR. It’s also coercion if the driver is forced to drive even though they stated that it would be unsafe to drive due to fatigue or load violations. It’s a big issue that appears to only be getting worse.
Is Anyone helping Coercion in Trucking?
There are some who are on the side of the driver. During the National Transportation Safety Boards’ 2023 budget meeting, the topic of coercion was at the top of the docket. This is because coercion creates unsafe driving conditions. 20% of all commercial driver accidents cited fatigue as the largest contributing factor to the accident. But accidents aren’t the only problem with coercion. At the budget meeting, they concluded that there was a direct correlation between the driver shortage and working conditions. Drivers don’t want to deal with these harsh working conditions. It is no coincidence that driver turn-around is at an all-time high.
The easiest solution is for motor carriers, shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries to give their clients more reasonable expectations. In the age of overnight shipping and instant gratification, clients expect things to move much faster than drivers can deliver them. These tight deadlines don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In fact, people expect deliveries to be faster with every passing day. However, the National Transportation Safety Boards must take action if they plan to have any truckers left to deliver on those unrealistic delivery expectations.