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2020 Workers' Memorial Day Fact Sheet on Whistleblower Protection for Commercial Motor Carrier Workers

Whistleblower Protection for Commercial Motor Carrier Workers


Truck drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers are protected from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security conditions.

On August 3, 2007, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), 49 U.S.C. §31105, was amended by The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act (Public Law 110-53) to include new rights, remedies and procedures.

Covered Employees

In general, STAA covers private sector drivers (including independent contractors while personally operating a commercial motor vehicle) and other employees of commercial motor carriers (including mechanics and freight handlers).  To qualify for coverage, employees must be involved in activities directly affecting commercial motor vehicle safety or security.  A commercial motor vehicle covered by STAA is defined as any self-propelled or towed vehicle used on the highway in commerce principally to transport cargo or passengers.  To qualify for coverage, such a vehicle must also:

  • Have a vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds (whichever is greater); or,

  • Be designed to transport more than 10 passengers, including the driver; or,

  • Transport materials deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Transportation in a quantity requiring placarding (posting) under applicable regulations.

Protected Activity

If you are covered under STAA, your employer may not discharge you or in any manner retaliate against you for:

  • Filing a complaint or initiating or participating in a proceeding related to the violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety or security rule; or

  • Cooperating with certain federal safety or security investigations; or

  • Providing information in an investigation by a federal, state or local regulatory or law enforcement agency relating to any accident or incident resulting in injury or death or property damage that occurred in connection with commercial motor vehicle transportation.

In addition, under STAA, your employer may not discharge you or in any manner retaliate against you for refusing to operate a vehicle because to do so would violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health, or security or because you had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to yourself or to the public related to a vehicle’s safety or security condition.  STAA also prohibits your employer from discharging or otherwise retaliating against you for accurately reporting hours of service (HOS).  (For more detail about federal HOS requirements, please visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website,  You may also be covered if you were perceived as having engaged in the activities described above.

Adverse Actions

Your employer may be found to have violated STAA if your protected activity was a contributing factor in its decision to take adverse action against you.  Such actions may include:

  • Firing or laying off

  • Blacklisting

  • Demoting

  • Denying overtime or promotion

  • Disciplining

  • Denying benefits

  • Failing to hire or rehire

  • Intimidation

  • Making threats

  • Reassignment affecting promotion prospects

  • Reducing pay or hours

Deadline for Filing a Complaint

Complaints must be filed within 180 days after the alleged adverse action occurred.

How to File a Complaint

A worker, or representative of a worker, who believes that he or she has been retaliated against in violation of this statute may file a complaint with OSHA.  The complaint should be filed with the OSHA office responsible for enforcement activities in the geographic area where the worker lives or was employed, but may be filed with any OSHA officer or employee.  For more information, call your nearest OSHA Regional Office:

  • Boston                  (617) 565-9860

  • New York              (212) 337-2378

  • Philadelphia          (215) 861-4900

  • Atlanta                  (678) 237-0400 

  • Chicago                (312) 353-2220

  • Dallas                   (972) 850-4145

  • Kansas City          (816) 283-8745

  • Denver                 (720) 264-6550

  • San Francisco      (415) 625-2547

  • Seattle                  (206) 757- 6700

Addresses, fax numbers and other contact information for these offices can be found on the Whistleblower Protection Program’s website,, and in local directories.  Complaints may be filed orally or in writing, by mail (we recommend certified mail), e-mail, fax, or hand-delivery during business hours.  The date of postmark, delivery to a third party carrier, fax, e-mail, phone call or hand-delivery is considered the date filed.  If the worker or his or her representative is unable to file the complaint in English, OSHA will accept the complaint in any language.

Results of the Investigation

If the evidence supports your claim of retaliation and a settlement cannot be reached, OSHA will issue a preliminary order requiring the appropriate relief to make you whole.  

Ordered relief may include:

  • Reinstatement with the same seniority and benefits.

  • Payment of back pay with interest.

  • Compensatory damages, including compensation for special damages, expert witness fees and reasonable attorney’s fees.

  • Punitive damages of up to $250,000.

OSHA’s findings and preliminary order become a final order of the Secretary of Labor, unless a party objects within 30 days.

Hearings and Review

After OSHA issues its findings and preliminary order, either party may request a hearing before an administrative law judge of the U.S. Department of Labor.  A party may seek review of the administrative law judge’s decision and order before the Department’s Administrative Review Board. Under STAA, if there is no final order issued by the Secretary of Labor within 210 days after the filing of the complaint, then you may be able to file a civil action in the appropriate U.S. district court.

To Get Further Information

For a copy of the statutes, the regulations and other whistleblower information, go to www. For information on the Office of Administrative Law Judges procedures, decisions and research materials, go to and click on the link for “Whistleblower.”

This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies or standards.  It does not impose any new compliance requirements.  For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request.  The voice phone is (202) 693-1999; teletypewriter (TTY) number:  (877) 889-5627.

To Get Further Information contact:

IBT Safety and Health Department,
25 Louisiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001
Email:  [email protected]
Phone:  202-624-6830
Fax: 202-624-8740.

This fact sheet is based on “Whistleblower Protection for Commercial Motor Carrier Workers,” by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).