answer" if the dispatcher fails to get through, and "absent" or "not home" or "not home will call" if someone other than the driver answers the phone, but that person does not affirmatively accept a dispatch call on behalf of the driver.
The discipline imposed for any of the forms of missed telephone dispatch calls varies with the frequency and severity of the incidents. Missed dispatch calls are treated cumulatively, and a history of busy signals, no answers, driver non-availability when a call is completed, failure by a third party to accept a dispatch call, or failure to report to the terminal within two hours of receiving a dispatch, leads to progressively more severe forms of discipline. The forms of discipline begin with a letter of reprimand, then a suspension, then a threat of dismissal, and culminating, finally, in actual dismissal in the case of "chronic and habitual absenteeism."
"Chronic and habitual absenteeism" as grounds for dismissal is sanctioned by the industry-wide collective bargaining agreement and represents an accumulation of incidents of busy phone lines, no answers, driver non-availability if there is an answer, or failure by an answering third party to accept a dispatch on behalf of driver. If a driver believes he has been unfairly disciplined or that the charge of "chronic and habitual absenteeism" is groundless, he may invoke the grievance procedure of the industry-wide collective bargaining agreement.
Even apart from company-imposed discipline for missed telephone calls, there are strong economic incentives for drivers not to miss dispatches. Compensation and vacation time are tied to the number of "runs" a driver makes, with the result that a missed dispach can be costly.
The unpredictability of the dispatch call and the two-hour reporting deadline, combined with the economic incentives which drivers have for not missing telephone dispatches, as well as the threat of discipline (and incidents of actual discipline) which follow missed telephone dispatch calls, tend to keep West Middlesex drivers close to their home telephones during the period when they are supposed to be available. Most drivers inform the dispatchers that they are to be reached at their home phones, and in fact most dispatch calls are received personally by the drivers at their home telephones.
One possible alternative to constant driver availability alongside the home telephone is for the driver to attempt to determine in advance when a dispatch call will come. The record shows that such driver-initiated dispatch inquiries are ineffective in freeing drivers from their home telephones because dispatchers are unable to predict when a load will be available for a particular driver.
Another alternative to personal availability alongside the home telephone -- the use of secondary telephone contact points -- does not permit drivers to pursue freely ordinary leisure time activity during the period when they are supposed to be available. To illustrate, a driver may want to use his off-duty time for a trip to a camping site where there are no telephones, or to see a movie or to eat at a fast-food restaurant where he cannot easily be paged. Or the driver may want to visit a regional shopping center where the use of multiple contact points is not feasible. Thus as a practical matter, the most that recourse to a secondary contact point means is that a driver may select one other phone to which he is tied, but the secondary contact point, like the primary contact point at home, must be within two hours distance of the West Middlesex terminal.
Hall's has not interferred with or discouraged the use of driver initiated dispatch inquiries or secondary contact points.
Apart from driver initiated dispatch inquiries and the use of secondary contact points, the only other viable alternative to personal telephone availability identified on the record is the use of third party dispatches -- that is, the acceptance of a dispatch by someone other than the driver. The availability and/or lack of availability of a third party dispatch procedure at West Middlesex was the main point of contention during the administrative hearings.
The record shows that Hall's does nothing positive to encourage the use of third party dispatches at the West Middlesex terminal. The only statement of company policy which relates to third party dispatches appears in a company bulletin dated August 5, 1975:
If, for any reason, a driver is not going to be at the place normally called by the company when work is available, and no one else is available at that place to accept a work call for that driver, the driver is required to so notify the company so that, if a load does materialize, the driver can be reached and offered work.
Hall's interprets the August 5, 1975 policy statement as meaning that unless a third party specifically asks for a dispatch, and affirmatively represents that he or she is authorized to accept the dispatch, a third party dispatch will not be given, and the call will simply be recorded on the log audit card as showing that the driver was not available. Other trucking firms do not require the invocation of specific formulas before third party dispatches are given; the drivers merely inform these other companies once of the names of adult persons authorized to receive dispatches.
Neither the terms of the August 5, 1975 policy statement nor the interpretation of the policy statement are well known to the West Middlesex drivers or the members of the driver's family who would be the most likely recipients of those calls. Hall's third party dispatch procedure does not appear in the company's work rules nor do they appear in written dispatch instructions given to dispatchers although it is the practice of other carriers to have a written explanation of third party dispatch procedures.
The three dispatchers that testified concerning Hall's dispatch procedures were William Bullano, Edward Boyle, and Mary Kathryn Ebersole. Although each testified that they had given dispatches to a third party, there was no one consistent method employed in making the third party dispatches. Dispatcher William Bullano testified that he gave dispatch information to third parties only if the third party indicated that immediate contact with the driver could be made for the purpose of informing the drivers to call Bullano. Upon promptly receiving a return call, Bullano would then give the dispatch to the driver.
Dispatcher Mary Kathryn Ebersole did not require that a third party specifically ask for the dispatch, but would not give the dispatch to a third party, even if it were asked for, unless that person could tell her where the driver was and when he would return, thereby assuring her that the driver would report to the terminal within the two-hour deadline. To Ebersole, who worked the night shift, a typical third party dispatch was an instance when the driver was asleep, the wife answered the phone, and Ebersole told her to wake her husband and send him to the terminal for a load. Dispatcher Edward Boyle would only give third party dispatches if the person answering the telephone on behalf of the driver affirmatively requested that the dispatch be given. According to Boyle, third party dispatches were given infrequently.
The testimony of Louis Caccia, an employee of Hall's with twenty-one years of service, (11 of which have been spent at West Middlesex, and presently the shop steward at West Middlesex) shows that Hall's did not have a viable third party dispatch system. Caccia was called as a witness by Hall during the administrative hearings. Based upon the administrative law judge's observation of Caccia's demeanor, this Court adopts his findings that Caccia's testimony is entitled to a high degree of credibility. Caccia testified that he never received a third party dispatch; that the language of Hall's August 5, 1979 bulletin (i.e., the reference to someone else being "available . . . to accept a work call for (the) driver") does not indicate anything to him about a third party dispatch system; and that in his view Hall's does not have a third party dispatch system. As shop steward, however, Caccia never made any suggestion to Hall's management respecting third party dispatches, because, as he put it --
Well, until recently, I never heard much about third party, which has been mentioned a few times. I never used to . . . I never known of anybody else that used it, unless just recently I heard them talk of it."