The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a new policy statement on Thursday, addressing sexual assault within the trucking industry.
FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson, in the statement, not only seeks to raise awareness but also reminds state courts and state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) of federal regulations mandating the disqualification of drivers convicted of using a commercial truck to commit felony sexual assault.
Desiree Wood, head of the advocacy group REAL Women in Trucking and a commercial driver, expressed her enthusiasm, stating, "I've been writing about this for some time."
“Before Robin was at FMCSA, people were saying this issue was not under the agency’s authority. There have been agency announcements about wanting drivers to be the eyes and ears on the road when it comes to truckers against the human trafficking that’s been occurring, but what about cleaning up our own house?” Wood added.
The policy recognizes sexual assaults at truck stops, fueling stations, and during CDL license training. It acknowledges variations in state criminal codes and defines "sexual assault" broadly.
“Truck drivers whose personal safety is at risk cannot devote their complete attention to the safe operation of a CMV [commercial motor vehicle] and the performance of other safety sensitive functions,” the notice states. “State courts and state driver licensing agencies [SDLAs] play a key role in addressing this problem.
Examples of using a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in an assault include occurrences within a CMV, transporting a victim to a site of assault, and using a CMV to conceal an assault.
Moreover, FMCSA emphasizes the importance of state courts promptly forwarding convictions to SDLAs for disqualification.
“There may be other circumstances in which a CMV is used in the commission of felony sexual assault as determined by state prosecutors based on the facts of the case and applicable state law,” FMCSA added.
“FMCSA urges state courts to be diligent in forwarding these convictions to the SDLA so the perpetrator will be disqualified from operating a CMV,” it continued.
This development aligns with Hutcheson's review of recommendations from FMCSA's Women in Trucking Advisory Board.
The board suggests measures such as avoiding shared sleeping quarters during CDL training and establishing independent complaint-reporting mechanisms for documented cases of sexual harassment and assault.
Desiree Wood encourages women to file criminal complaints, emphasizing the need for law enforcement education on the unique aspects of over-the-road truck driver training practices.
“I strongly feel that sexual predators — even though they may not have yet been identified as such — still thrive in this industry because we have not addressed the issue. We need to grow up and understand that until you can be transparent about it, you can’t begin to fix the problem.” Wood continued.