What is Forced Dispatch and what Truckers should know?

Forced dispatch is a subject that has raised various questions in the minds of truckers for a very long time. Not only is it mentioned on various company websites, but it also comes up for discussions on various forums. Now, what is forced dispatch? Most trucking companies look to take on as much work as they can. That’s when these companies push truckers into transporting loads they otherwise wouldn’t.

Forced Dispatch guide

How Does a Forced Dispatch Occur?

A forced dispatch takes place when a trucking company eventually finds a way to insist that a trucker take a load even when he isn’t really willing to make the trip or isn’t in a position to do so. To put it simply, the trucking company forces the trip on the driver. It’s a clear message that the driver must take the load.

The trick is to force the driver into taking the trip by exploiting his fear of losing the job. Drivers use the income they make to lease the trucks they drive through various trucking companies. That’s why, even if the driver feels that it’s not safe to take a certain trip, they won’t refuse it for the risk of having to lose their jobs.

The Birth of Teamsters to Protest Forced Dispatch

In the early years of trucking, a driver being coaxed into forced dispatch was more of a norm than an exception. It was in response to such an oppressive situation that Teamsters was set up in the early 1900s. It was under the able leadership of Hoffa in the ‘30s that the Teamster movement gathered steam with drivers launching a concerted effort to put an end to the practice of forced dispatch.

However, down the years, Teamster lost the way and forced dispatch is making a comeback. In the age of rising competition with trucking companies mushrooming, almost all of them take recourse to forced dispatch for higher profits through higher volumes. With drivers being in short supply, companies are forced to extract as much labor as they can from their drivers. Forced dispatch is rearing its ugly head again.

Forced Dispatch is Illegal and the Role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

The FMCSA has specifically stated that forcing a driver to drive when he isn’t willing to do so is illegal and unlawful. There may be several reasons for a driver to refuse to drive. The most common ones are-

  • Mechanical fault in the vehicle
  • Illness of the driver or him being tired
  • Violation of the regulations regarding hours of service
  • Any other issue that may make driving unsafe for the driver

In a bid to strongly discourage trucking companies from indulging in the practice of forced dispatch, the FMCSA has decided to heavily fine the violators. The fine may at times be as high as $16,000 for every single incident. The FMCSA may also cancel the trucking company’s operating authority.

The FMCSA realizes how forced dispatch raises the possibility of accidents. It has therefore set up a mechanism to prevent coercion of drivers helping make our roads safer. The mechanism involves,

  • A system allowing truckers to report when they are being coerced into accepting forced dispatch and therefore violate the law
  • A system of imposing penalties upon confirmation of forced dispatch having occurred
  • A system that specifies what steps will be taken by the FMCSA when coercion is reported by a driver.

The Process of Filing a Complaint

The FMCSA is responsive to complaints from drivers regarding coercion. A driver may email the FMCSA over ELOGS that may be used as a backup. A message may be forwarded by a driver on the satellite system which clearly states why he is refusing to take the load. If it’s found that the trucking company has still coerced the driver into making a forced dispatch, it’ll be deemed as an action that has endangered road safety. Necessary steps are then taken against the company.

The FMCSA’s aim is therefore to protect drivers from exploitation and reduce accidents improving road safety. The FMCSA’s regulations seek to give protection to drivers in the trucking industry from being overworked and exploited just as other industries do. The mechanism of imposing steep fines has been put in place solely for this purpose.

Coercion Still Exists

Why is the coercion of drivers into accepting forced dispatch still rampant despite the efforts made by the FMCSA? Experts are of the opinion that the House of Service Rules (HOS Rules) is to blame partly. The HOS stipulates how long the driver may drive at a stretch before stopping for a break.

Truckers may fail to meet their deadlines if they stick to those stipulations causing loss of profit for the trucking company, the shipper and the receiver. Higher profits, therefore, push companies to push their drivers in turn to drive more and ignore federal regulations. Drivers may be threatened by trucking companies with,

  • Being denied future assignments if they refuse to ignore HOS rules
  • Losing the job if they refuse to continue driving
  • Being denied the best routes
  • Being assigned work on unfavorable days, like holidays upon refusal to ignore HOS rules.

Conclusion

The ideal approach is to strike a balance.

While it’s not advisable to give in to every demand of the employer, being too rigid doesn’t help a trucker either.

We have highlighted the ills of forced dispatch in our article and mentioned the steps taken to prevent it. Having done so, we suggest that a driver may at times take up an unscheduled road trip if it promises handsome rewards. But it should be made sure that the driver doesn’t overdo things so that it doesn’t take a heavy toll on his health.

But at the same time make sure to :

  • Know your rights
  • Don’t come under pressure to accept forced dispatch
  • Talk politely to say no to forced dispatch

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