Whistle Blowing Truckers: STAA Law
on Retaliation, Vindication
Every time we
hear or read about whistle
blowing truckers who have
- refused to drive
retaliated against by their trucking companies and
- later been
we want to jump up and cheer!
According to this
A "whistleblower" discloses information he or
reasonably believes evidences:
- A violation of any law,
- An abuse of authority
- A substantial and
- Gross mismanagement to
- A gross waste of funds
- A substantial and
danger to public safety.
Specific Cases of
Whistle Blowing Truckers
When would a professional truck driver ever need to "blow the whistle"
on the job?
Whenever he or she is being required to do any of the things listed
above (which could have a potentially limitless number of applications).
Just because a trucker is protected under the law does
not mean that he or she will not have some short-term pain.
Here are specific instances where truckers spoke out,
took a stand, were retaliated against and were later vindicated:
- The trucker who refused to haul a load of
explosives with a co-driver who smoked -- because "smoking
while hauling explosives violates federal regulations" -- was
terminated and later reinstated and awarded "$315,000 in back wages and
- Cynthia Ferguson refused to
drive her rig because of
safety issues associated with winter weather, was fired and later
According to one source(*), "The whistleblower provisions in the STAA
commercial truck drivers who were retaliated or discriminated against
because they refused to drive under dangerous conditions."
OOIDA's Land Line Magazine carried an article that listed the judge's
recommendations and orders, and the cost to
her trucking company:
- reinstatement as a driver
with that company;
- "pay $76,600 in back wages
and for her emotional distress";
- "pay $75,000 in punitive
- payment of all her attorney
- expunging her personnel
record of wrongful discharge.
- Numerous other cases of whistle
blowing truckers have been
significant cases on employment law concerning truckers have
been compiled here.
Why Trucking Companies
Ask Truckers to Violate Law or
Sometimes the eagerness of trucking companies or those
who work for them to get freight delivered overrides their common sense
in making sure that it is done safely and lawfully.
Each professional truck driver is responsible for the
operation of the truck entrusted to his/her care. If it is dangerous to
drive, then driving should not be attempted. If you're being pressured,
a good dose of whistle blowing may be needed.
You may reference the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration's Rules and Regulations any time online.
Below, we are going to share some photos and explain
three situations Mike was in (when Vicki was riding with him full-time)
that could have potentially become situations under which whistle
blowing was called for (but fortunately were not).
We're sharing these to help you stay mentally alert to
potential situations of your own.
Snow Storm in December
The sign reads
SNOW AND ICY
Use your own best judgment when/if you drive in
conditions like this.
Check weather forecasts -- especially if you're
going to be traveling in hazard-prone areas.
We were northbound on I-75
approaching the last exit in Tennessee with a truck stop in the middle
of a snowstorm.
The snow dumped so hard and fast that law
enforcement eventually closed
the exit before we got there. This was also supposed to be the exit
where we were getting off to get to Mike's next shipper.
Mike's driver manager wisely told him it was his
about driving. Mike had to cross over into
Kentucky and park until the weather cleared a bit.
Snow Storm in January
|This night-time photo shows
how much snow dumped on Mike's hood overnight. He was asked to take a
load from Greensboro, NC, to a place along I-95 near the NC/VA state
line. Travel advisories
had been posted for quite some time. Vicki doesn't get nervous often,
but this time, she was.
Yes, the sun was up and we were
on a major road in North Carolina, but where was all of the traffic?
This had been one huge snowstorm!
One source said that Greensboro
got a total of 6.4" of snow in that storm, which is pretty amazing
since the Southeast Regional Climate Center
says that entire annual
amount of snowfall for the area is 9.2 inches.
Vicki lost count of the number
cars she saw whose drivers had lost control and spun off in the ditch
sides of the road.
|This major road was also
deserted, as well it should have been with as much snow that fell. The
travel advisory was still in effect. It would take hours for the road
crews to plow the road or for the temperature to warm up sufficiently
to melt the snow.
|Vicki took this photo along
I-95. The truck shown -- way off the shoulder -- was the only
commercial motor vehicle we saw that had trouble in this storm. With a
lot of prayer and extra cautious driving, Mike made it safely to his
In March 2010, Mike was
assigned a hazardous materials load that required the placement of a
couple of placards on the trailer,
one of which is shown here.
Every entity associated with the load is
responsible for its handling, especially the
For more information, please see How to Comply with Federal Hazardous
Before you haul a hazardous materials load, make
you know and follow all of the rules and regulations associated with
Although Mike applied the placards to the trailer correctly before he
started out, at least one of them blew off. He had to get another
placard to replace the missing one, but with the second set, he made
sure they would stay in place by applying some tape.
What Doesn't Qualify
as Whistle Blowing?
Please note that certain criteria must be met in order
for you to have standing under the whistle blower laws.
You can't just
refuse to do your job because you don't want to do it. A
couple of Mike's former co-workers fired
themselves (!) because they didn't want to do the jobs they
were assigned. Obviously, their cases didn't qualify for whistle
If it is the case that you're not used to driving in
certain areas or weather conditions
-- like if you're from a rural area and
don't like going into major metropolises or if you're from the south
where there isn't much snow and you're being required to drive in snowy
northern states in the winter --
you may want to either hire on with a
different company that has freight going to different areas or you may
a truck driver at all.
Money saving tip:
Never bow to the wishes of someone inside your company when he or she
wants you to do something illegal or unsafe. The whistleblower laws are
in place to protect you (U.S. law only).
The United States Department of Labor has a
special website called WhistleBlowers.gov with all of the details about
Employee Protections under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act
49 U.S.C. §31105.
The FMCSA also covers this part of the law here(*).
Should you be asked to do something illegal or
unsafe on the job, mention this to your supervisor. If
he or she will not listen to you, you may wish to pursue the matter
one management level up.
If you are being asked to do something unsafe,
you may wish to appeal to your trucking company's Safety Director.
Mentioning the possibility of whistle blowing at
the beginning may not be the best course of action when you're talking
with people in your trucking company about an illegal or unsafe action
they're asking you to do.
If you have a law firm on retainer, we
recommend that you consult with them first before engaging in whistle
blowing, just to get guidance. You may need their help later on if
you're retaliated against.
Remember, you as the professional truck driver are
the person who is going to be
driving the truck, taking the load, navigating the highways, etc.
Protect yourself, all of your things in your truck, the truck you're
driving, the trailer you're pulling and the load you're carrying.
Don't risk your life, your CDL or your career
because you feel intimidated.
You may really need the money, but
which is more important, the miles or your life?
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