Court gives ELD rule the green light

Oct. 31, 2016
FMCSA met requirements for rulemaking, driver protections, judges say

The rule to mandate electronic logging devices is good to go, the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled Monday. The requirement, published late last year and set for an initial implementation phase to begin in December 2017, was challenged by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. and truck drivers Mark Elrod and Richard Engel.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said the organization was “disappointed,” and that it “strongly” disagreed with the court's ruling.

“Because this issue is of vital importance to our members and all small business truckers, we are reviewing our next steps to continue our challenge against this regulation,” Johnston said in a statement.

An FMCSA spokesman declined to comment.

OOIDA had successfully blocked an earlier attempt to require e-logs to track truck driver hours of service, with the court agreeing that the 2010 rule did not sufficiently address drive harassment, a protection required by Congress. However, the new rule meets the requirement, the court decided, and the panel also rejected four other arguments made by the petitioners in the case.

Broadly, the decision written by Circuit Judge David F. Hamilton regularly refers the 80-year history of regulating the trucking industry and driver work limits. “Congress has long recognized commercial trucking as a dangerous industry. Danger to the public has lain at the center of the hours of service rules since 1935,” he writes, and he quotes a statement from a congressman at the time who coined the term “truckathon” to describe the “brutal, inhumane, and dangerous practice whereby drivers of busses (sic) and trucks are compelled to work 18 to 20 hours a day, to the detriment of their own health and the danger of the public who travel the highways of our country.” 

In the point-by-point denial of OOIDA’s claims, the the three-judge panel rejected the arguments that:

  1. The rule is contrary to law because it permits ELDs that are not entirely automatic: “Petitioners’ reading of the statute seeks to pit one statutory requirement against another rather than allow the agency to balance competing policy goals endorsed by Congress,” the decision summarizes.
  2. The agency used too narrow a definition of “harassment” that will not sufficiently protect drivers: “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.”
  3. The agency’s cost‐benefit analysis was inadequate and fails to justify implementation of the ELD rule. “The agency did not need to conduct a cost‐benefit analysis for this rule, which was mandated by Congress. Even if such analysis were required, the studies were adequate.”
  4. The agency did not sufficiently consider confidentiality protections for drivers. “The agency, however, adopted a reasonable approach to protect drivers in this regard.”
  5. The ELD mandate imposes, in effect, an unconstitutional search and/or seizure on truck drivers. “We find no Fourth Amendment violation. Whether or not the rule itself imposes a search or a seizure, inspection of data recorded on an ELD would fall within the “pervasively regulated industry” exception to the warrant requirement. The agency’s administrative inspection scheme for such information is reasonable.”

The American Trucking Assns. participated in the case as a “friend of the court” who supported the rule.

“ATA is pleased that the court has cleared the way for this important regulation and we look forward to its implementation,” spokesman Sean McNally said.

About the Author

Kevin Jones 1 | Editor

Kevin Jones has an odd fascination with the supply chain. As editor of American Trucker, he focuses on the critical role owner-ops and small fleets play in the economy, locally and globally. And he likes big trucks.

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