Chain of Thought

Good Truckers Avoid Crashing Into the Limelight

MH&L has been grabbing audience attention with a series of video galleries demonstrating the dumb things drivers have been caught doing, both with their lift trucks and their over-the-road vehicles. Unfortunately, these galleries haven’t been that hard to put together. YouTube has plenty of video evidence of mobile workers violating laws, not only of our transportation and labor authorities, but of common sense.

Our most recent video gallery also included a link to an article we just posted on efforts to change certain provisions of the Hours of Service regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Whatever you might think of the details surrounding these regs, their overall purpose is to cut down on highway carnage. And while what happens with trucks on roads is usually the province of DOT, it was OSHA that started the New Year by doing its part to prevent another potential driving disaster.

Actually, let’s give credit where it’s due. Since it’s hard to make a gallery of a bunch of drivers doing the right thing, consider this a shout out to one of those drivers. One day in 2010, a driver for Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc., based in Auburn, Wash., notified his company that he was sick and taking a prescribed narcotic cough suppressant, therefore he didn’t feel it was safe to drive. Instead of thanking him for letting them know and for avoiding a costly accident, the company fired him.

This was not only a stupid reaction on the part of this carrier, it violated the Ill or Fatigued Operator Rule enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Upon his termination, the worker filed a whistleblower complaint under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which protects drivers from retaliation for refusing to violate truck safety laws that protect them and the public.

OSHA has since ordered Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc. to compensate this driver for lost wages and to remove any stain of wrongdoing from the driver's personnel file. The employer will also be required to post a notice for drivers to read and learn about their lawful rights under the STAA.

"Punishing workers for exercising their right to refuse driving assignments is against the law," said David L. Mahlum, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Seattle. "A company cannot place its attendance policies ahead of the safety of its drivers and that of the public."

Rather than focusing on the dumb thing this carrier did, let’s applaud the smart action taken by this driver—and hope that it inspires other drivers on meds for a virus to avoid being in the next video that goes viral.

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