SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA takes arbitrary fatigue enforcement to court

| 5/13/2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a lawsuit today challenging a Minnesota State Patrol’s arbitrary enforcement program used to declare truck drivers fatigued and to place them out of service.

The Association filed the lawsuit Wednesday, May 13, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of truck drivers placed out of service and in some cases fined after members of the Minnesota State Patrol arbitrarily arrived at the conclusion the drivers were “fatigued.”

The discovery of a seemingly random checklist of items that supposedly indicated fatigue did more than just raise an eyebrow at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The list included things like the presence of a TV, reading material, a cell phone – to name a few – as signs of fatigue.

But, that was just the tip of the iceberg. The Association immediately began to dig in and found out that the enforcement program not only lacked medical or scientific justification, but also infringed on truckers’ civil and constitutional rights.

The Association’s findings were highlighted in an in-depth investigation by Land Line Now Host Mark Reddig that aired in April.

The lawsuit charges that drivers were denied their rights to a hearing on the out-of-service orders and that the regulation under which the orders were issued fails both to define fatigue and to establish a standard under which a driver would know when to stop driving.

The state’s enforcement procedures – which lead to arbitrary determinations of driver fatigue – are challenged in the lawsuit on constitutional grounds; the lack of due process; and warrantless search and seizure.

“We consider this program an outrageous abuse of police power and an intolerable violation of the civil and constitutional rights of professional truckers,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston.  “We see no justification for this conduct either scientifically or in rational, legitimate law enforcement.”

The Association is suing high-ranking officers in the Minnesota State Patrol, including the captain who developed the procedures, and officers who made arbitrary determinations of fatigue arrived at during the interview process.

The Association is seeking an injunction that will stop the capricious fatigue enforcement procedures that result in drivers – who are completely compliant with the federal and Minnesota regulations – being put out of service for fatigue.

In addition to putting a stop to the use of flawed procedures used to determine fatigue, the Association is also seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages from the defendants personally.

Click here to read a copy of the lawsuit.

Visit ooida.com for updates on the lawsuit.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor