The concept of forced dispatch is one of my biggest pet peeves in the trucking industry.
Just what exactly is forced dispatch? This style of dispatching is when for example, a trucker doesn’t want to or is unable to go on the road for a trip for his company.
For whatever reason, he cannot or is unable to make a planned trip. The trucking company then proceeds to force the trip on the truck driver. The company indicates the driver must take the load.
As the saying goes, ‘Like it or lump it, you’re going to take it down the road and dump it’. That’s forced dispatch.
The Teamsters Fought Forced Dispatch
Dispatchers pushing truck drivers, was quite prevalent in the early years of trucking. It was one of the reasons the teamsters came into being in the early 1900’s. They gained a lot of traction in the ’30’s under Hoffa’s leadership, because they were fighting hard against forced dispatch.
Teamsters Loose Ground, Forced Dispatch Gains
With the decline of the teamsters, forced dispatch now is beginning to come back. The large trucking companies base their profit margin on volume. They need to squeeze as much labour as they can, out of the truck driver, especially in these times of the severe driver shortage. It is starting to be a problem for truck drivers once again.
Forced Dispatch in Company and Owner Operator Fleets
This concept is mostly prevalent in company owned fleets. But it’s also becoming a problem in owner operator fleets as well.
Owner operators have a contractual agreement with the carrier they are leased on to. The contract may state that the owner operator must take a load when dispatched.
However, interestingly enough, at the same time, the company isn’t willing to guarantee the owner operator a fixed volume of miles or income, from the compulsory dispatch system. Certainly a clear discrepancy in the system.
FMCSA Says No Forcing a Driver on the Road
The FMCSA has brought forth a rule that it unlawful to coerce a driver to drive against his will. The reasons for refusing to drive can be for mechanical reasons, conflict with the hours of service regulations, the driver is ill, the driver is tired, or anything else which interferes in the safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
If a carrier is found guilty of coercion of a driver, the fines imposed by the FMCSA are very high, sometimes up to $16000 per incident. They would also be subject to the loss of their operating authority.
If the trucking company has been found guilty of the offence, they are not to take retaliatory measurements against the said driver, for refusing a load. Anything that affects the driver’s mileage or income, or job status, is considered a retaliatory measure.
How to File a Complaint Against a Trucking Company
The FMCSA accepts complaints of driver coercion. Emails over ELOGS can be used as backup in such a case. A driver can forward a message on the satellite system to his dispatch, stating the reason he is refusing the load.
If the trucking company then responds that the driver must complete the trip in question, they can be found at fault for forcing a driver to drive a commercial vehicle, in an unsafe manner.
HERE IS THE LINK TO SEND IN YOUR COMPLAINT REPORT TO THE FMCSA FOR INVESTIGATION.
The Truck Driver is ALWAYS Responsible When Behind the Wheel
The responsibility is with the driver if the driver is not fit to drive, and accepts the trip anyway. If something goes wrong, and the driver has an accident, the burden lies with the driver for knowingly driving when unfit to do so.
So it only stands to reason, when in doubt, as a professional driver, always refuse the load.
Forced Dispatch Still Lives
Today with the mandate for E-logs being enforced, it has become much more difficult for carriers to force dispatch and stay within the FMCSA rules.
However, many unscrupulous companies will still attempt it.
One favourite trick trucking companies like to play is to take a driver just fresh off his ten hour break, work him for a few hours and then put him to bed again, while he is till fresh.
Then, 10 hours later, they’ll try to dispatch the driver for work again, this time for the full 14 hours.
Of course, the driver has not been able to sleep, as he was fresh off his first break and is just getting tired as his hours become available again.
While tricks like this may work well for the carrier, to have a driver available with full hours as a load becomes available, there has been no regard for the drivers circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycles.
The company is trying to force a driver to work when he is tired. Clearly an unsafe practice.
Tricks such as this one, need to be fully documented by the driver, the load refused and reported to the FMCSA at the driver’s discretion.
With the truck driver shortage in full swing, trucking companies are less likely to get into an ugly situation with the driver and the FMCSA which they will not win.
A Positive Step Toward Protecting the Driver
This ruling is a big step toward solving a problem which has been prevalent in our industry for many, many years. So just when we drivers think that the government is asleep at the wheel and do not care about what’s going on in trucking, down comes a ruling which is a huge step in the right direction.
So it seems they are certainly paying attention and making positive steps to end driver coercion.
- Protect yourself as a professional driver.
- Exercise your rights.
- Don’t allow yourself to be pushed into unsafe situations. Don’t accept forced dispatch.
- Forced dispatch is against the law.
- You are responsible at all times when behind the wheel.