Feds say states play ‘key role’ in addressing sexual assault within trucking industry

December 7, 2023

Ryan Witkowski


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is hoping to raise awareness about sexual assault against truckers while reminding state courts and licensing agencies about regulations aimed at eliminating drivers with felony convictions.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, the agency published a Notice of Enforcement Policy reminding states of federal laws that require a commercial driver’s license holder be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle if convicted of a felony that involved using one.

Currently, 49 CFR 383.51 mandates that a first conviction result in a one-year disqualification – or a three-year disqualification if the driver is transporting hazardous materials. A second felony conviction would result in a lifetime disqualification.

CDL holders with a lifetime suspension can be approved for reinstatement following 10 years if they have “voluntarily entered and successfully completed an appropriate rehabilitation program approved by the State.”

However, felony convictions for crimes related to controlled substances or human trafficking result in lifetime disqualification without the possibility of reinstatement.

In its notice, the agency defines the term “sexual assault” as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by state law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”

Some examples FMCSA gives of using a CMV in the commission of the assault include:

  • Felony sexual assault occurring in or upon a CMV or towed unit
  • Use of a CMV to transport a victim to a site where felony sexual assault is committed
  • Use of a CMV to conceal a felony sexual assault (e.g., the CMV serves as a shield from public view while the assault is taking place)

According to FMCSA, the purpose of the notice is to “increase awareness of sexual assault against commercial motor vehicle drivers,” as well as to emphasize the penalties for those convicted of using a CMV to commit a felony.

“Sexual assaults have occurred at truck stops, fueling stations and in connection with CMV driver training,” the agency said in its notice. “Truck drivers whose personal safety is at risk cannot devote their complete attention to the safe operation of a CMV and the performance of other safety-sensitive functions.”

The agency said it hopes to promote awareness about the issue with “motor carriers, CMV operators, CDL training programs and others in the CMV industry” and that state courts and licensing agencies will play a “key role in addressing this problem.”

In its notice, FMCSA urged state courts to “be diligent in forwarding these convictions to state drivers licensing agencies” to ensure the federal regulations for disqualifying drivers are enforced.

The issue of sexual assault within the industry is also on the radar of the Women of Trucking Advisory Board. During a July meeting, the board discussed both sexual assault and harassment and their impact on retention and recruitment in the industry.

The notice issued by FMCSA could be in part a product of those conversations. During the board’s final meeting last month, FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson told the group the agency already was working to address some of the board’s concerns. LL