08/03/2016 – The APWU is challenging recent management changes to physical testing and licensing procedures for Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) on a number of fronts. All of the changes were made without any notification or discussion with the union at the national level.
How We Got Here
The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 requires the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe regulations on minimum safety standards for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety. At a minimum, it says, the regulations shall ensure that:
- CMVs are maintained, equipped, loaded, and operated safely;
- The responsibilities imposed on operators of CMVs do not impair their ability to operate the vehicles safely;
- The physical condition of operators of CMVs is adequate to enable them to operate the vehicles safely;
- The operation of CMV does not have a deleterious effect on the operators (49 U.S.C. 31136a).
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 established minimum standard requirements and required a single state-issued license for operators of commercial motor vehicles.
The Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 established drug and alcohol testing of operators of aircraft, trains, trucks, and buses.
As an agency of the federal government, the Postal Service is exempt from Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and regulations. However, in 1995 the Postal Service decided to adhere to DOT regulations pertaining to physicals for employees requiring a CDL, including the issuance of medical cards and drug and alcohol testing procedures.
At the time, the APWU national MVS director and assistant director were notified of the Postal Service’s intentions, participated in discussions, and made suggestions that resulted in improvements to the USPS-proposed rules for postal CDL drivers.
In 2005, the USPS notified the union of their intentions to make changes to Management Instruction PO-720-95-2, which outlined drug and alcohol testing procedures.
During these meetings the union demonstrated that postal employees were the safest in the industry undergoing drug and alcohol testing. We also negotiated “last-chance agreements” for all employees who test positive for drugs and alcohol for the first time.
Failure to Bargain
On April 1, 2016, the Department of Transportation implemented new standards concerning DOT physicals. One change is that drivers are given a choice between an interstate and an intrastate license. “Interstate” means between states; “intrastate” means within a state.
USPS medical directors weighed in, stating that USPS Tractor Trailer Operators must be certified for interstate driving even if they don’t cross state lines. “This is the decision of the USPS. There can be no variation on this,” they wrote.
At the same time, the Postal Service implemented additional policies affecting Motor Vehicle Operators and Tractor Trailer Operators regarding DOT exams. They are as follows:
- Drivers should be scheduled a minimum of 1 month prior to the expiration date on the card.
- Drivers need to see their own medical providers for their pre-existing health conditions 2 months before their card expires and have medical documentation at the DOT exam.
- Drivers will need a repeat DOT medical exam if they are missing any information at the time of the exam.
While the changes reflect the regulations implemented by the Department of Transportation, the Postal Service is not obligated to implement them. And because the new policies relate to wages, hours, and working conditions, the Postal Service is required to bargain over them. However, the union was neither notified nor consulted.
We recently discovered several correspondences from the field that motivated the union to file national-level and area-wide disputes. Most notable was an email from the Western Area PVS manager instructing local PVS managers to deny light-duty work to employees who fail their DOT physicals and cannot drive. After sending four Requests for Information to USPS headquarters to determine if the email was based on a headquarters policy or an area policy, management stated it was an area policy.
It is hard to believe that one area would initiate such an arbitrary and capricious policy on its own. If you find local management routinely denying light duty for employees who fail their DOT physicals, file a local grievance and contact your MVS National Business Agent to determine if it is an area-wide policy.
On May 3, in response to these ongoing DOT issues, the union initiated a national-level grievance. We will keep you informed as the case progresses