OOIDA: Amended driver out-of-service criteria are unconstitutional

June 29, 2012

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), has filed an order to show cause in federal court against the Minnesota State Patrol and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance for the recently amended out-of-service criteria for fatigue.

OOIDA said the recently revised criteria that truck drivers can be placed out of service based on “reasonable articulable suspicion” for fatigue violates Fourth Amendment rights and contradicts a previous ruling in federal court. That ruling said that out-of-service orders can be issued only if a law enforcement officer finds “probable cause,” a much more stringent standard.

In April of this year, the CVSA amended its out-of-service criteria for fatigue, stating: “When so fatigued that the driver of a commercial vehicle should not continue the trip based on reasonable articulable suspicion, declare the driver out-of-service until no longer fatigued.”

“This revised standard is troubling and unconstitutional on its face,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president. “Principles of constitutional law dictate that an arrest without a warrant must be based upon probable cause, which is a much higher standard than reasonable articulable suspicion.”

Back in September 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled that during inspections, law enforcement personnel cannot expand an inspection to determine impairment unless they have a reasonable articulable suspicion that the driver may be impaired. Drivers cannot then be ordered out of service for fatigue or illness unless there is probable cause to believe that they are unsafe and an imminent risk to public safety.

“The amended criteria are in direct conflict with the court’s ruling,” said Johnston. “It basically gives police the ability to put a driver out of service for any or no reason.”

OOIDA is asking the court to require the CVSA and MSP to appear and defend why they should not be held in contempt for violating the court’s ruling in September.

Because state enforcement activities are funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration through the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), the Association also sent a letter to FMCSA asking it to repudiate the amended criteria and purge all out-of-service reports since April 1, 2012, when the amendment was enacted.

About the Author

Deborah Whistler

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