November 22, 2014

FMCSA, OSHA strengthening worker protections

OSHA logo; OSHAWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the coordination and cooperation between the agencies regarding the anti-retaliation provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). The Memorandum allows for the exchange of safety, coercion and retaliation allegations, when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other.

The STAA protects drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security conditions.

“This strengthened partnership with OSHA extends our inter-agency collaboration specifically to include the sharing of reports of alleged coercion – companies forcing or intimidating truck or bus drivers to violate federal safety regulations,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Pressuring drivers to stay behind the wheel beyond their hours-of-service limits, or to disregard other federal safety rules, seriously jeopardizes the safety of every traveler on our highways and roads. Commercial truck and bus companies that knowingly endanger the motoring public, or retaliate against whistleblowing employees, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Commercial vehicle drivers who report injuries, hazards and illegal work practices should not fear retaliation for speaking out about unsafe work conditions,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Through this agreement, we are sending a clear message that silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable for workers and also unsafe for the public.”

FMCSA and OSHA each play a specialized role in protecting the safety of commercial drivers and of the motoring public. OSHA investigates employee complaints of retaliation by commercial truck and bus companies. FMCSA is responsible for regulating both industries and – along with its state law enforcement partners – ensuring company and driver compliance with federal safety regulations, including driver on-duty and driving time limits to prevent fatigue, commercial driver’s licenses rules, medical qualifications, drug and alcohol testing, hazardous materials safety standards and others.

In the last nine years, OSHA has processed more than 2,800 cases under STAA. Recently, OSHA ordered an Iowa waste removal company to reinstate a driver and pay the employee more than $123,000 in compensation after the company terminated the driver for raising safety concerns over company routes that violated U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, potentially causing serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public. For more information on that case, read the press release at: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=25905.

Under the MOU, FMCSA will refer employees who complain of retaliation to OSHA, and OSHA will provide FMCSA with copies of complaints filed and findings issued under STAA. The agencies will report to each other annually on information shared during the previous year. The MOU also provides that FMCSA will process OSHA requests for information from various FMCSA databases.

The public, commercial drivers, motor carriers and other industry members may file a safety, service or discrimination complaint against a household goods moving company, bus or truck company, including hazardous materials hauler or a cargo tank facility, by calling toll free 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time. Complaints may also be submitted through FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint website at: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.

FMCSA was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Its primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. For more information on FMCSA’s safety programs and activities, visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations. Additional information is available at: http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.