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August 29, 2011 2:00 PM, EDT
Appeals Court Throws Out EOBR Rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic onboard recorder 2010 final rule for motor carriers with significant hours-of-service violations does not protect truck drivers from potential harassment by their employers, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Siding with three truck drivers and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 26 vacated and remanded the rule back to the agency for further proceedings.

American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said in a statement that while ATA is still reviewing the court’s decision, it supports FMCSA’s efforts to mandate the adoption and use of electronic logging devices for hours-of-service compliance.

“We hope FMCSA will work quickly to address the Court’s decision and the important device design and performance specifications being evaluated by the Administrator’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee,” Graves said.

The appeals court said the agency’s EOBR mandate for carriers with past HOS problems, set to go into effect in June 2012, does not adequately address or ensure that carriers could not use the devices to force drivers to stay on the road even when they are tired.

“The agency needs to consider what types of harassment already exist, how frequently and to what extent harassment happens, and how an electronic device capable of contemporaneous transmission of information to a motor carrier will guard against (or fail to guard against) harassment,” the court said.

Although the court decision specifically addresses the 2010 final rule, FMCSA also will also likely have to bring into compliance its Jan. 31 proposed rule mandating that nearly all motor carriers equip their trucks with EOBRs, said Robert Digges, ATA’s chief counsel.

“I think that the general direction by Congress to consider the issue of driver harassment is applicable to that rulemaking as well as the earlier one,” Digges said.

FMCSA has said it expects to issue the final rule for nearly all carriers by June of 2012, but will give truckers three years to comply after it becomes final.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said an analysis conducted by FMCSA had said that “companies use EOBRs to enforce company policies and monitor drivers’ behavior in other ways.”

“They can contact the driver and put on pressure to get back on the road to get the most of his or her on-duty time, regardless of how fatigued a driver may be,” Spencer said in a statement. “Such a mandate would be a step backward in the effort toward highway safety and is an overly burdensome regulation that simply runs up costs for the majority of trucking, which is small-business.”

After the ruling, FMCSA spokeswoman Candice Tolliver Burns said in a statement that FMCSA “is committed to raising the bar for commercial truck and bus safety.” She said the court’s decision is under agency review.

American Trucking Associations CEO Bill Graves said in a statement that ATA is still reviewing the court’s decision, but supports FMCSA’s efforts to mandate the adoption and use of electronic logging devices for hours-of-service compliance.

“We hope FMCSA will work quickly to address the Court’s decision and the important device design and performance specifications being evaluated by the Administrator’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee,” Graves said.