By Adam R. YoungA. Scott Hecker, Daniel R. BirnbaumJames L. Curtis, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: Resources and laws supporting best practices to ensure commercial motor vehicle (“CMV”) driver safety include CDC-NIOSH guidance, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”), and OSHA’s Fatigue Rule. 49 CFR § 392.3 – Ill or fatigued operator.

NIOSH on Well-being Matters for Driving on the Job

“Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs.  And motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S.”  Given the risks inherent to operating CMV, NIOSH has provided guidance to employers on driver safety.  NIOSH’s Center for Motor Vehicle Safety offers advice designed to mitigate the risks of workplace car accidents, emphasizing guidance for truck drivers, drivers in other high-risk jobs (EMS, law enforcement, oil and gas extraction), and light-vehicle drivers (real estate, sales, health care).

The November 2023 issue of NIOSH’s Behind the Wheel at Work offers employers thoughts on:

  1. Challenges to Driver Well-being
  2. How Well-being Impacts Driving
  3. How Employers Can Promote Driver Well-being

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)

Under the Fatigue Rule, drivers may not drive and employers may not require them to drive when they are too sick or fatigued to operate safely.  Employers would be wise to address driver well-being and design a program to manage claims of fatigue and illness.  The STAA protects CMV drivers from retaliatory action by carriers if drivers refuse to drive due to safety concerns, including claims of fatigue and sickness.  The Act’s implementing regulations are found at 29 CFR Part 1978.  As part of its whistleblower investigation responsibilities, OSHA investigates alleged STAA violations and corresponding retaliation claims.  Employer subject to retaliation claims may face exposure to both monetary damages or injunctive requests from employees. 

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH Act)

OSHA recognizes that long work hours may increase the risk of injuries and accidents and can contribute to poor health and worker fatigue.  This can include increased level of stress or lack of physical activity and illness. Increased levels of stress has the potential to escalate into instances of workplace violence, governed by OSHA’s general duty clause.  Lack of physical activity or illness has the potential to increase into a host of injuries or illnesses that may become recordable instances for purposes of recording on OSHA’s 300 form.  As such, with respect to both OSHA enforcement and general compliance, employers should evaluate and address worker fatigue in the workplace.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) or Workplace Policies and Handbooks Teams