OOIDA: OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program inadequate for drivers

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said Friday it had presented input to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) earlier this week on the programs that are supposed to protect truck drivers from retaliations for reporting unsafe practices and work environments.

At a meeting held by OSHA at the U.S. Department of Labor, feedback was sought for the Whistleblower Protection Program in the transportation industry.

OOIDA members were represented by Director of Federal Affairs Jay Grimes who shared information about how OOIDA believes these programs inadequately serve truck drivers.

The association provided the background to illustrate the experience that truck drivers face with regard to reporting unsafe situations with their jobs that also affect the public:

In 2016, FMCSA adopted a coercion regulation that prohibits motor carriers, shippers, receivers or transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including drivers’ Hours of Service limits; the commercial driver’s license regulations; drug and alcohol testing rules; and the Hazardous Materials Regulations.

To file a complaint, drivers must submit it in writing to the division office located in the state where they are employed or submit the complaint to the National Consumer Complaint Database (NCCDB) via a hotline telephone number or online portal.

Both of these methods have been proven as unsatisfactory, OOIDA said.

Typically, drivers receive little, if any, response from the NCCDB, the association.

Additionally, OOIDA said, there is insufficient follow-up with drivers after filing a complaint and the lack of response from the agency results in many unresolved complaints and also discourages drivers from using the NCCDB to report unsafe practices as the NCCDB does not efficiently address a driver’s complaint efficiently after its been reported.

“Our membership has had less experience with OSHA’s whistleblower program,” Grimes said. “We usually receive one or two calls inquiring about OSHA per year but have not been active in any OSHA whistleblower cases.  Our general thought is that many drivers are not aware of the OSHA Whistleblower protections provided by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Drivers are also likely more familiar with the DOT/FMCSA filing processes rather than OSHA’s.

“We are hopeful this meeting and subsequent meetings will be an opportunity to increase the awareness about OSHA’s whistleblower program,” Grimes said. “We would certainly be interested in working with OSHA and other industry stakeholders to educate professional truck drivers about OSHA’s whistleblower program and the whistleblower laws it enforces.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the only national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the Greater Kansas City area.

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