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How Prevalent is Truck Driver Harassment?

As the use of electronic logs increased last year, complaints of truck driver harassment have been increasing. Additionally, changing regulations have created an environment where fleet managers and truck drivers are constantly trying to adjust to changing policies.

Late last year the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) commissioned a study to determine if truck driver harassment was something worth looking at. The study was implemented as part of a directive from Congress to the FMCSA. The goal was to make sure the new rule on e-logs wasn’t resulting in driver harassment. Let’s take a closer look at the study and its results.

The Study’s Methodology

The company who was hired to complete the study interviewed 628 professional truckers at truck stops across the country. Out of that number, 341 used electronic logging devices. The survey period was from April 28 through May 20, 2014.

Around 70 percent of the truck drivers surveyed were company drivers. Another 29 percent were owner-operators. Of the company drivers, 80 percent used e-logs, while only 18 percent of the owner-operators did.

The surveyors spoke with drivers about interactions with their carriers and whether or not they considered those interactions to be harassment. A follow up question asked whether or not the interaction was tied to the use of e-log devices.

The research focused on fourteen separate interaction types, ranging from load schedule adjustments to discussions about fatigue, detention time and pay levels. The survey company also spoke with more than 800 office employees and fleet managers of carriers ranging in size from 50 to more than 1,000 trucks.

The Study’s Results

Over 10 percent of the truck drivers surveyed reported being asked or forced to drive while fatigued, falsify logs, or break other rules at least two times in a month. The study did not find a direct correlation between this number and those who used e-logs, however.

Almost 19 percent of truck drivers reported that their carriers routinely ask them to meet unrealistic load schedules, while another nineteen percent stated that carriers interrupt their off-duty time with repeated messages. More than twenty percent also reported that they were asked or forced to wait over two hours at a dock without being paid for it.

The survey also asked respondents to write down any type of interaction that they felt was harassing in nature. Some of those entries included:

  • “Disciplinary action.”
  • “Threats of firing.”
  • “Wake me up and tell me to get going and if I don’t answer they call the officers.”
  • “If you don’t do as they say, they won’t give you any loads.”

Despite these responses, researchers reported that the evidence does not support the conclusion that harassment occurs due to the use of e-log devices. The study shows that there are potentially thousands of interactions per day where harassment can occur, but doesn’t tie it to technology.

Fewer than 3 percent of the study’s participants directly linked driver harassment to the use of electronic logging devices. Almost all of the participants were okay with messages and interactions that addressed how to save time between loads, how to pay for truck driver delays, and asking truckers to take a break due to fatigue.

What’s Next?

For many, this isn’t surprising. The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) successfully challenged the FMCSA’s initial ruling on e-logs four years ago. Even so, the study is not perfect and has its own limitations.

One significant drawback is that all of the data in the study is based on information that is self-reported, rather than data drawn from independent observation. As a result, the possibility of biases due to memory, lack of a willingness to discuss sensitive topics, and varied perceptions of desirable behavior is very high.

Of course, with the end of the hours of service rule, the use of e-logs as a form of driver harassment is greatly lessened. As this study shows, however, the overall problem of driver harassment remains, whether technology is involved or not.

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