June 27, 2016 4:30 AM, EDT

FMCSA Defends E-Log Rule From OOIDA Legal Challenge

This story appears in the June 27 & July 4 print edition of Transport Topics.

In a brief filed with a federal appeals court, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defended a legal challenge to the agency’s electronic logging device rule by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The 60-page brief was filed June 15 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

It was a response to an OOIDA claim filed with the appeals court March 29 alleging that the ELDs mandate for commercial vehicles “does not advance safety, is arbitrary and capricious and violates Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

FMCSA said it could refute every claim made by OOIDA.

“A driver who drives over hours currently can falsify any one of a number of entries on the record of duty status to make it appear that the driver is in compliance,” the FMCSA response said. “The electronic logging device would provide certain pieces of driver-unalterable data, which would complicate the process of falsifying driving hours.”

FMCSA called the agency’s adoption of the ELD rule a “common-sense” reinforcement of a congressional ELD mandate.

“Automatic, tamper-proof recording of driving data, location, engine hours and other information decreases the likelihood that driving time can be concealed or status information changed after the fact,” the agency said.

The ELD rule, unveiled Dec. 10, details new technical specifications for ELDs and supporting documents and requires all interstate carriers to comply by Dec. 17, 2017.

However, OOIDA said the agency provided no proof of its claims that the mandate would improve highway safety.

“They didn’t even attempt to compare the safety records of trucking companies that use ELDs and those that do not,” OOIDA President Jim Johnson said in a statement earlier this year. “There is simply no proof that the costs, burdens and privacy infringements associated with this mandate are justified.”

But based on the agency’s calculations, FMCSA said that the improved hours-of-service compliance achieved through ELDs would result in 1,844 fewer crashes, 26 lives saved and 562 injuries avoided annually.

FMCSA also said it adopted several technical provisions to guard against driver harassment.

Not only does the regulation include a specific prohibition on driver harassment, including civil penalties for such harassment, but it spells out a procedure for drivers to file written complaints of harassment by a motor carrier. It also requires that all ELDs be equipped with a mute function or volume control that automatically engages when drivers enter in sleeper berth status, FMCSA said.