The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is imposing serious financial penalties on companies that are alleged to have fired truck drivers for making safety complaints.
In two recent cases, OSHA ordered trucking companies to fork over more than $1 million to truck drivers who were let go after they complained that they were coerced to violate hours-of-service work limits.
These OSHA cases suggest that there is more enforcement occurring regarding truck driver hours of service. This could help to make our highways safer, but it could make shipping costlier, and also could cause a truck driver shortage.
In one settlement, Gaines Motor Lines of Hickory, North Carolina had to pay $262,500, which included damages, back pay and interest, to four ex-drivers who were allegedly fired for participating in an inspection audit by FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) in 2012.
The settlement was announced in August and was reduced from the over $1 million penalty that OSHA gave to Gaines last year. It eliminated the punitive damages but kept the back pay in place. The four employees were fired a week after they worked on an FMCAS audit that revealed hours-of-service violations at Gaines Motor Lines.
OSHA's is focusing on the firing of employees for safety concerns, and the FMCSA is looking into allegations of drivers working more hours than they should.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels stated Aug. 18 that it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against drivers who report work-related safety concerns, or any violations in federal transportation regulations.
Trucking companies also should be aware that this last July, OSHA and FMCSA signed a memorandum of understanding to boost coordination and cooperation between the agencies. They both will be exchanging information on motor carrier safety, retaliation and coercion allegations.
Driver fatigue among truck drivers is one of the leading causes of tractor trailer accidents. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board states that as many as 40% of all heavy truck accidents are related to driver fatigue. Clearly the above story shows that both OSHA and FMCSA are serious about cutting down on fatigue and safety violation-related truck accidents.
As Virginia truck accident attorneys, we have all too often seen the results of truck drivers driving too many hours, or ignoring safety concerns. We think it is a good thing that many truck drivers are trying to stay safe and are reporting violations to their companies.