Courts toss FMCSA’s EOBR rule

Aug. 29, 2011
The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) successfully won a nearly year-long court battle to get mandates for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) disallowed – primarily as they would be a form of “harassment,” violating a drivers’ right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) successfully won a nearly year-long court battle to get mandates for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) disallowed – primarily as they would be a form of “harassment,” violating a drivers’ right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Though the briefing raises a litany of issues that would make for a difficult and exhaustive Administrative Law final exam, in the end we find that we can dispose of the petition on a narrow basis,” the court said in handing the group a victory in its case, OOIDA, William J. Culligan, Adam D. Burnett and Douglas A. Oldham vs. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

[Click here for the entire brief.]

“We conclude that the rule cannot stand because the agency [FMCSA] failed to consider an issue that it was statutorily required to address,” the court said. “Specifically, the Agency said nothing about the requirement that any regulation about the use of monitoring devices in commercial vehicles must ‘ensure that the devices are not used to harass vehicle operators.’ We therefore grant the petition and vacate the rule.”

“It’s a fantastic decision,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston told Landline magazine. “The decision dealt with the issue of harassment of drivers. The court’s decision also left room to come back and challenge other aspects if the agency gets overly enthusiastic about how they want to monitor truckers.”

The court added within its decision that FMCSA also 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.

“A study of these problems with EOBRs already in use, and a comparison with carriers that do not use these devices, might be one obvious way to measure any effect that requiring EOBRs might have on driver harassment,” the court noted.

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