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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is drawing up plans for a survey and study to better understand the “prevalence, seriousness, and nature of the problem of harassment and assaults against minority and female truckers.”
“FMCSA has accumulated evidence, both documentary and anecdotal, for a serious pattern of harassment- and assault-related crimes against female and minority male truckers,” the agency said in a July 23 Federal Register announcement.
The announcement said that FMCSA does not currently provide materials or training to truckers, including minority and female truckers, on how to protect themselves from being stalked, harassed, assaulted or robbed.
“Before effective solutions for preventing or reducing these crimes against female and minority truckers can be developed and implemented, FMCSA must understand the prevalence, seriousness and nature of the problem of harassment and assaults against truckers,” the announcement said. “Currently, there is insufficient data. The frequency and number of harassment- and assault-related crimes occurring, the portion that are unreported and reasons for underreporting are unknown.”
The agency is seeking comment on the notice by Sept. 23. The findings of the survey and report will be made available on the agency’s website so that interested stakeholders and the public will be aware of the findings, FMCSA said.
Ellen Voie, president of Women In Trucking, said her group has been working with the agency the past 18 months, providing names of drivers to get feedback on the questions for the survey.
“You see lawsuits popping up every once in while, especially with trainers and trainees,” Voie told Transport Topics. “We want to know where is it happening, how often is it happening and what can we do to stop it.”
Voie added, “We’re the only mode of transportation that requires us to be gender-blind when we put people together in the cab of a truck. I just think that that’s a travesty. When they put trainers together, you’re supposed to not consider that they’re opposite genders when there’s a sleeper berth a few inches away.”
The agency said it needs to explore and validate the problem of harassment- and assault-related crimes, especially against female and minority male truckers for two reasons.
“First, there seems to be a perception among these subpopulations of truckers that they are more vulnerable than others,” the notice said. “Second, there is a critical shortage of truckers, and helping these subpopulations of truckers protect themselves from crimes could draw more truckers from these subpopulations, while stemming turnover, to alleviate the shortage.”
The agency said it has contracted with research and development firm Battelle to create and execute the survey.
FMCSA said the survey will be “exploratory and limited in scale and scope,” and will not be used for rulemaking.
The anonymous survey will ask female and minority truck drivers whether they have experienced race- or gender-related harassment or crimes on the job.
“If the driver has had such an experience, the survey will ask follow-up questions on where and when the incidents occurred, any information the respondent knows about the perpetrator and whether the respondent reported the incident,” the announcement said. “None of the questions will ask for information that could personally identify the respondent or any perpetrators involved.”
Some respondents will take the survey online, and others will take it in the form of an in-person interview. Identical questions will be asked of all drivers, but answers from men and women will be analyzed separately, the agency said.
A maximum of 440 men and 440 women will be included in the information collection. Approximately 160 in-person interviews will be completed with 80 women and 80 minority men. The balance will take the survey electronically and be offered a $25 incentive fee. Some individuals may be eligible to participate in the survey but will not have had any recent experience of harassment or assault.
“By understanding the nature and prevalence of crimes against truckers, FMCSA will be able to formulate and promote programs to address the problem,” the announcement said. “The report may be useful to law enforcement personnel, motor carriers, truck drivers, operators of private truck stops and others interested in addressing the situation.”
If study findings indicate a significant problem that merits action, FMCSA may consider developing training or outreach materials to help truckers protect themselves from crime or harassment. Such training or outreach materials could help foster motor carriers’ employee retention efforts and help make the truck driving profession more attractive to a greater range of people, FMCSA said.