Understanding the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)


The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) is codified as 49 U.S.C. §31105. The STAA is not a “regulation” but instead a federal law. The STAA is not administered by the US DOT but instead is enforced by OSHA.

The purpose of the STAA is to protect commercial vehicle drivers from retaliatory action by carriers if they refuse to drive due to safety concerns. STAA covers not only private sector drivers (including independent contractors while personally operating a commercial motor vehicle), but other employees of commercial motor carriers (including mechanics and freight handlers), if they are involved in activities directly affecting commercial motor vehicle safety
or security.

Commercial vehicles under the STAA :

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

Retaliatory action 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

For STAA violations OSHA may order:

  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Back pay (with interest)
  • Compensatory damages, and
  • Punitive damages, up to $250,000
  • Expungement of the driver’s employment and *DAC Report records
  • Post notices in the workplace about STAA rights for employee review.

All new CDL drivers in interstate commerce since July 20, 2004 are required to have mandatory training in their rights under the STAA (Part 380, Subpart E—Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements).

How to Avoid STAA Troubles

  • Learn and know the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
  • Have a system in place to capture and document reports of non-compliance and unsafe conditions or unsafe vehicles.
  • Take seriously any safety reports.
  • Train dispatchers and supervisors in the nuances of what could be considered “retaliatory action” under the STAA so they are aware of and do not engage in that behavior.
  • Make sure everyone is accountable for safety.
  • Review policies and company manuals to encourage reporting of any unsafe conditions or workplace non-compliance.


*DAC Report is the Drive-A-Check pre-employment report.