As I discussed in several other recent posts here, the employee protection provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, 49 U.S.C. Sec. 31105, prohibits retaliations against drivers because they "file complaints" related to violations of a commercial vehicle safety regulation, law or standard or because they refuse to operate a commercial vehicle in violation of such a regulation, law or standard. The U. S. Department of Labor, which enforces this portion of the STAA, has found that laws and regulations regarding commercial vehicle weights are safety regulations.
Most recently, a Department of Labor administrative law judge found that Central Cal Transportation fired a truck driver in violation of the STAA because she complained that her assigned trailer weighed 34,600 pounds on the trailer tandems, or 600 pounds over the legal weight, and because she refused to haul the load after getting it scaled, sliding the axles and still was unable to get the load legal. The boss misrepresented the law to the driver telling her that she could scale 35,500. The driver was awarded full back pay, damages for mental pain, and attorney fees. Central Cal Transportation was also ordered to offer the driver reinstatement.
A copy of the decision can be found at this link: https://tinyurl.com/y83nfhf2 (I hope the link works).
Here are some tips for drivers to protect themselves from retaliation for refusing overweight loads:
1. Keep the scale tickets;
2. Try to get the load legal on the axles by sliding them;
3. Be aware that some states have adopted an allowance of 400 to 550 pounds up the weight of the APU, if the truck is equipped with an APU. Thus, verify that you can be that much over in the states through which you are travelling;
4. Clearly communicate your refusal via Qualcomm, PeopleNet or Text and retain copies of those communications;
5. If you know you are going to be close on legal weight prior to dispatch, try to go in low on fuel.
NOTHING IN THIS POST SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS CREATING AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. THIS POST PROVIDES INFORMATION OF A GENERAL NATURE. EACH LEGAL MATTER IS FACT SPECIFIC.
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