The Coercion Rule: Four Tips for Avoiding FMCSA Penalties
Thursday, August 13, 2020

When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted its Coercion Rule in 2016, it gave the agency more authority over freight brokers, shippers and receivers to hold them accountable for forcing drivers to violate the agency’s regulations.

Specifically, the Coercion Rule prohibits motor carriers, shippers, receivers and transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate in violation of certain FMCSA regulations such as hours-of-service limits, their commercial driver's license (CDL) regulations and associated drug and alcohol testing rules, among others. Under the Coercion Rule, drivers can report incidents of coercion to FMCSA. Then, FMCSA can issue penalties against the party who coerced the driver.

At USL, our independent contractors arrange for the movement of goods. The underlying motor carrier has the authority to determine how to move those goods safely. Many times a carrier can be held up at the shipper for extended loading times. When that happens, they should be compensated for their time by the shipper or customer.

So, how do you set everyone up for success, avoiding FMCSA penalties as well as unhappy drivers and customers? A little empathy and a good dose of communication can go a long way.

1. Know your drivers' limitations

Drivers are under a federal hours of service mandate that says they can only drive the truck for a certain number of hours per day. Familiarize yourself with the FMCSA hours of service limitations and talk to your drivers to make sure you are aligned.

2. Don't be too pushy

When drivers are pushed to operate outside of these hours it is not only dangerous for them — brokers are liable, too. At USL, we agree and also strictly prohibit this. Forcing a driver to operate outside the federal guidelines is careless. Some brokerages have paid millions in lawsuits because of this.

3. Set reasonable expectations

Freight brokers also need to convey reasonable delivery times to the customer and avoid setting unreasonable expectations. This positions you and the driver for success, and it will build trust with the customer who will come to know that they can rely on you for future runs.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Lack of communication is the main cause of strain between truckers and freight brokers. Brokers need to make sure they are conveying accurate information to the carriers they hire. This helps the carriers take more responsibility for their loads, which results in happy customers.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid violating the FMCSA Coercion Rule is to do something we’ll always advocate: establish a solid relationship with your drivers. If you’re looking out for each other’s best interest, you’ll avoid putting each other in any number of compromised positions, including violating any FMCSA regulations.

In his role as vice president of sales at USL, Drew Jackson brings nearly 15 years of logistics experience to his work leading our team in its mission of being always on, ready with solutions for customers, brokers and carriers. For more of Drew’s industry perspective, check out the USL blog.

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