ACWI ADVANCE | Volume 3, Issue 24 | December 15, 2015
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a final rule increasing penalties for those who may coerce commercial truck and bus drivers into violate federal safety regulations.
The rule goes into effect Jan. 30, 2016 and raises fines for violations to as much as $16,000. Drivers must report allegations of coercion within 90 days of the incident.
Under the rule FMCSA can take enforcement action not only against fleet operators, but also will target shippers, receivers, and brokers.
In addition to hours violations, FMCSA said drivers may also be pressured to operate vehicles with mechanical deficiencies, also violating safety regulations. “Drivers who object that they must comply with the federal regulations are sometimes told to get the job done despite the restrictions imposed by the safety regulations,” the agency said.
Industry reactions have ranged from welcoming the new rule, to concern that because its language is too broad it will fuel litigation by drivers. Others note that similar laws have been on the books for decades but have proven difficult to prosecute.
Congress Approves STB Reform Bill
Congress last week approved reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Board, expanding its membership from three to five commissioners and streamlining how it handles rail rate cases.
The Senate, where the legislation was introduced, had passed the bill earlier in the year and the House followed suit on Dec. 10.
To streamline and speed-up decision making decisions regarding rail rates and competitive practices, the commissioners are now allowed to discuss issues with each other informally, ending previously required public notice and hearings.
The bill also establishes shorter timelines and streamlines highly complicated procedures the STB had been using in rail rate review cases. In the past rail rate cases routinely cost the shippers and railroads involved more than $3 million to litigate and could take more than three years to resolve.
Alcoholism and the ADA: Dos and Don’ts
The Americans with Disabilities Act considers alcoholism to be a “disability” and those who suffer from it are entitled to ADA protections just like those with significant mental illnesses or who are confined to wheelchairs.
As a result employers need to be aware of the legal issues when questioning job applicants or employees about alcohol intake, and when conducting alcohol testing.
One in 20 Americans are estimated to suffer from alcoholism. In 2013, 24.6% of people 18 or older said they engaged in binge drinking and 6.8% said they engaged in heavy drinking in the past month, reports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Because the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, employers are prohibited from asking disability-related questions or conducting medical examinations prior to making a conditional job offer.