OSHA: Firing drivers for reporting HOS violations will not be tolerated

Hours of service rules regulate the commercial motor vehicle industry. Carriers that violate such laws will face strict penalties by OSHA and other federal agencies working to maintain safe roads.

Hours of service, or HOS rules, are regulations that specify the working hours and procedural requirements for commercial carriers and drivers operating within the United States. Such mandates are implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, as a way to mitigate trucking accidents.

Carriers and others within the trucking industry argue that these rules are too demanding and infringe on a driver's ability to make a living, given that most drivers are paid by the mile rather than how much of a load they carry.

So, some will stop at nothing and skirt such HOS mandates if necessary, regardless of whether it puts the lives of other drivers and passengers at risk. Yet other carriers have gone a step further and have actually fired or taken retaliatory action against their employees or drivers who have spoken up about company HOS violations.

Fortunately, the FMCSA and other federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety Health Administration, or OSHA, have little tolerance for such tactics and have recently taken action against several carriers.

OSHA targets carriers

Last month, OSHA took action against Terry Unrein, an independent trucking company located in Gresham, Oregon. The agency ordered the carrier to pay back wages to a driver the company fired because he refused to operate a truck that failed to meet tire treads protocols as stipulated under the law. The OSHA order also mandated the company to reinstate the driver's position.

In another instance, OSHA recently ordered Asphalt Specialists, located in Pontiac, Michigan, to pay a fine of almost $1 million. The agency determined that Asphalt fired three truck drivers because they raised concerns after being instructed to skirt mandated HOS rules.

A $1.07 million fine assessed to Gaines Motor Lines, in Hickory, North Carolina, late last year recently gained media attention as well. In 2013, OSHA fined the company after it fired four truck drivers a week after the drivers participated in an FMCSA inspection that revealed serious company HOS violations. The company has since agreed to a settlement that includes back pay and reinstatement for the workers.

Zero tolerance

Such instances are a handful of examples that show how serious the federal government is about maintaining safe working environments for workers, particularly those in the trucking industry who often put the lives of other passengers and drivers in danger while they operate on the roads.

Entities that undermine CMV safety regulations through intimidation and adverse conduct will be penalized, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, recently stated.

Keywords: trucking accidents, Hours-of-service rules, violations, penalties

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