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OOIDA v. Minnesota State Patrol: Back before the judge

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor

The future of Minnesota’s fatigue enforcement program is now back in the hands of U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank in the case of OOIDA v. Minnesota State Patrol.

On April 19, OOIDA’s attorneys filed a post-trial motion asking the court to order the defendants to comply with a driver’s constitutional and legal rights when attempting fatigue inspections of  the driver in the future. The focus of this motion is the MSP’s revised fatigue program and training that it put in place after the trial, but before the court’s Jan. 28 post-trial findings of fact and decisions.      

“What we want is for the court to protect our rights and put a stop to the patrol’s use of bogus fatigue criteria that the court has already found to have no evidentiary value,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston.

“We realize the patrol has a new plan of enforcement, and personnel have learned a lot of new legal words like ‘articulable suspicion.’ But when it comes down to actual training and enforcement on fatigue, we think their training remains seriously flawed. Their new training teaches what those legal standards mean, but does not teach how to apply them to fatigue. The training gives not one example of a violation of 49 CFR.” 

OOIDA’s brief describes the way in which the state patrol continues to instruct officers to look for things such as pets in vehicle, TV in sleeper berth, computer and magazines as “clues” for driver fatigue. One training tip, “What do you smell?” replaces “body odor” from the old fatigued driver checklist.

“But no instruction is given as to what a tired trucker smells like,” said Johnston. “Our expert witness on fatigue establishes there is no known relationship between smells and driver fatigue. The training is still pathetic.”

Johnston said OOIDA is asking the court to require the Minnesota State Patrol to follow a well-established framework under Minnesota law for driver impairment determinations. This means using valid and reliable methods for determining fatigue – “not the things we proved at trial that did not support a finding of driver fatigue.”

OOIDA’s motion also requests that the court rescind wrongfully issued out-of-service orders for fatigue for all drivers who received them and to require the patrol to keep OOIDA informed of its ongoing fatigue enforcement activities. 

“If we knew what they were doing and could observe whether they were complying with the court’s order, it would eliminate the need for the court to constantly have to supervise the patrol,” said Johnston.

OOIDA and Member Steve K. House are represented by The Cullen Law Firm PLLC, Washington, DC. According to Paul Cullen Jr. of The Cullen Law Firm, both parties will now submit papers to the court with their competing versions of an injunction that the court should impose. 

OOIDA’s support memorandum was filed on April 19. At this time, the state’s attorney general’s office has not filed their documents.

Oral argument is scheduled to be heard on July 15. LL