California truck drivers and carriers may want to learn about a new rule announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The new rule provides more severe penalties for carriers, brokers and shippers who coerce truck drivers into driving through threats of reduced hours, fewer loads and other economic means.
Under the new rule, which will be effective as of Jan. 29, 2016, violators will face a maximum fine of $16,000 per event. Drivers must generally refer to the fact that the demanded driving would cause them to violate federal regulations. The FMCSA has indicated that it may initiate action against violators to seek revocation of their operating authority.
Fines that are collected under the new rule will be sent to the nation's Highway Trust Fund. Truck drivers may seek to collect through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. While lobbying groups pushed for the requirement that truck drivers specifically reference individual federal regulations or statutes they would violate, the FMCSA said that would be too much, and instead just used the general reference as the rule. The FMCSA also recommended that truck drivers make certain to document every time they are pressured or coerced by carriers, shippers or brokers in order to protect themselves.
Federal regulations are in place in order to prevent truck accidents caused by driver fatigue. When the rules are violated, other people on the road are at risk for suffering serious personal injury or even death in the event of an accident. Many carriers and shippers will attempt to skirt federal regulations in order to meet delivery time requirements. When that happens and an accident results, injured victims may want to sue both the driver as well as the carrier responsible. A personal injury attorney may be able to help them recover damages for the losses that have been incurred.