This story appears in the Nov. 7 print edition of Transport Topics.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit last month denied the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s challenge to the federal electronic logging device mandate.
OOIDA had asked the court to vacate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule, which was issued in December 201 and scheduled to go into effect Dec. 17, 2017.
The court knocked down each of OOIDA’s main objections to ELDs: that they didn’t fit the definition of automatic; they could be used to harass drivers and compromise the confidentiality of their data; that a cost-benefit analysis didn’t apply to the mandate; and that ELDs violated the Fourth Amendment.
The court said Oct. 31 that the petitioners claim that “the final rule is contrary to law because it permits ELDs that are not entirely automatic.”
“We disagree,” it went on to say in its 28-page opinion. “Petitioners argue that the agency used too narrow a definition of ‘harassment’ that will not sufficiently protect drivers. This claim also fails. When defining harassment, the agency sought input from drivers, motor carriers and trade organizations; it considered administrative factors; and it ultimately provided a reasonable definition of the term.”
The court continued, “Petitioners argue that the agency’s cost-benefit analysis was inadequate and fails to justify implementation of the ELD rule. However, the agency did not need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for this rule.”
The petitioners argue that the agency did not sufficiently consider confidentiality protections for drivers, according to the opinion that went on to say that the agency, however, adopted a reasonable approach to protect drivers. “Petitioners argue that the ELD mandate imposes, in effect, an unconstitutional search and/or seizure on truck drivers. We find no Fourth Amendment violation.”
OOIDA President Jim Johnston disagreed.
“We are disappointed and strongly disagree with the court’s ruling,” Johnston said in a statement, adding that the issue is of vital importance to members and all small-business truckers.
The association’s position is that mandatory installation of ELDs amounts to a warrantless search because of its GPS-like tracking. Law enforcement agencies are not allowed to place GPS or other tracking devices on private citizens’ vehicles without a warrant.
OOIDA is reviewing next steps to continue the challenge against the regulation, Johnston said.
FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne declined to comment after the ruling.
However, in the agency’s 60-page brief that was filed in June, FMCSA said that it adopted several technical provisions to guard against driver harassment and added that the improved hours-of-service compliance achieved through ELDs would annually result in 1,844 fewer crashes, 26 lives saved and 562 injuries avoided.
The ELD mandate recently climbed to the No. 1 position on the American Transportation Research Institute’s ranking of the top issues in the industry.
Several industry executives value the use of ELDs and support the court decision.
“ATA is pleased that the court has cleared the way for this important regulation, and we look forward to its implementation,” said Sean McNally, spokesman for American Trucking Associations.
“ELDs, when embraced by our industry, will improve commercial highway safety,” added Reggie Dupré, CEO of Dupré Logistics.
“The fact that Congress mandated ELDs, rather than relying on the FMCSA to simply promulgate a rulemaking, gave this issue much more weight,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of The Trucking Alliance.
“We applaud the court’s decision in helping to level the playing field and getting ELDs another step closer to being placed in every truck on our roadways,” said Russell Stubbs, chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association.