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Fleet Q&A: Can I Refuse to Drive in Dangerous Weather?

Icy Conditions Delay Valentine’s Day Deliveries

Earlier this week, Pennsylvania state troopers cited more than 800 violations of the commercial vehicle ban that was announced last Tuesday due to severe winter storms.

In order to prevent crashes and keep roads safe during icy conditions, PennDOT issued a ban on large trucks and other commercial fleet vehicles. 

For fleet managers, the ban couldn’t have come at a worse time as deliveries and shipments were being prepared for Valentine’s Day. Many trucking companies called the ban “unnecessary and overcautious,” due to a relatively low amount of snow on the ground. 

“If we start having a truck restriction for an inch or four inches of snow, that’s going to happen numerous times throughout the winter,” said Calex Trucking president Doug Barbacci. 

PennDOT, however, says that it used radar images of freezing rain and not the amount of snowfall to justify their decision in announcing the ban. 

“When it comes down as rain, it washes away any of the salt or the brine that’s on the road. And then once it hits the ground, it turns into ice,” explained PennDOT spokesman James May. 

Nevertheless, many trucking company leaders made calls to their state representatives, saying that the ban caused losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars when roads were safe enough to drive on. 

Do Drivers Have A Choice?


With trucking companies so eager to put vehicles on the road in dangerous conditions, we have to ask ourselves, “what say do drivers have in the matter?” 

What if road conditions truly are too dangerous to drive, yet state authorities don’t issue a ban? Can an employee refuse orders to drive in conditions that they know are unsafe?

According to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, drivers can decide to not drive a commercial vehicle if they believe that it would be unsafe to drive. The USDOT further backs up this statement: “If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed.”   

However, this refers to conditions at the time when you start your journey, or at any point along the way. Weather forecasts or a gut feeling that the weather will make a turn for the worst are not sufficient grounds for refusing to complete your route. 

Instead, drivers should state in writing to their dispatcher why they believe that conditions are too dangerous to continue. This helps create a record to protect the driver in case an employer seeks to fire them for disobeying orders. 

Additional documentation, such as weather forecasts from local news or the National Weather Service, photographs of road conditions, and references from other drivers who were experiencing similar difficulties can help you make your case. 

In the case that you do get fired for refusing to drive in dangerous conditions, you have at least 180 days to file your claim with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Conclusion

Commercial fleet drivers have the legal right to refuse to drive if they believe conditions are too dangerous. In order to protect yourself from being terminated unfairly, it’s recommended that you start building your case and gathering evidence before your employer takes action. 

A company that doesn’t value your safety isn’t worth working for. And with high demand and low supply for fleet drivers, you have the power in today’s job market. Don’t put your life at risk for a paycheck; choose a company that cares about the safety and wellbeing of its drivers. 

Written by Michael Edgar

Michael is a B2B Sales Executive and Lead Generation Specialist from Bentonville, Arkansas. At SalesBuddy, he strategizes with small businesses to get them more leads, increase their sales, and score more contracts.

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