SPECIAL REPORT: Minnesota State Patrol starts fatigue enforcement again

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor | 11/2/2010

Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 – Although the court has not yet ruled on OOIDA v. Minnesota State Patrol, the patrol is back on the job – with retrained officers and new policies – enforcing its regulations and policies regarding ill and/or fatigued truck drivers.

At the end of the federal trial in September in which the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and member plaintiff Stephen K. House challenged the fatigue enforcement practices of the Minnesota State Patrol, the MSP agreed to a moratorium on the fatigue impairment plan per a Sept. 2 internal order issued by the state patrol. This order halted fatigue enforcement until officers were “further trained.” The roll-out of the new enforcement program was planned for Oct. 1.

In court, OOIDA attorney Paul Cullen Sr. asked for a stay on the MSP’s fatigue enforcement program beyond that Oct. 1 roll-out. The state agreed to stay their enforcement program until the end of October.

OOIDA was informed on Nov. 1 that the moratorium was over. One week before a ruling is expected in OOIDA’s suit over the state’s fatigue enforcement practices, Minnesota Office of the Attorney General officially notified OOIDA that it would be “enforcing the applicable laws, regulations and its policies regarding ill and/or fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.”

Maj. Kent O’Grady, head of the MSP’s training project confirmed Tuesday that the training is now complete and the patrol is back in the enforcement business regarding ill and/or fatigued commercial drivers.

O’Grady is currently serving in Operations Support Services, a section of state patrol that oversees litigation and training, among other areas.

“All of our officers have undergone some increased training including constitutional rights, how to detect impairment at roadside, how to properly document that impairment,” O’Grady said. “We’ve got increased supervision in the program. Before somebody is placed out-of- service for illness or fatigue by a Minnesota State Patrol employee, that decision needs to be run past an on-duty supervisor.”

O’Grady said every North American Standards-certified inspector, including people from the commercial vehicle department and other departments, as well as MSP’s civilian counterparts – inspectors with Minnesota DOT – were included in the training. The training consisted of six different classes during October, an 11-hour course when completed.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston says the Association does not believe there is any accurate way to determine fatigue at roadside and has “clearly established this in court.” He said OOIDA is suspicious of any attempt by the Minnesota State Patrol to restart such a program.

“We want to know if drivers see an effort toward some type of illness/fatigue enforcement being carried out on Minnesota highways,” said Johnston. “Drivers can phone us 24/7.”

During business hours, Johnston said drivers can call OOIDA Business Assistance Department at 1-800-444-5791. After hours, drivers can call Land Line Now’s listener comment line, 1-800-324-6856, and press 3. Make sure to leave a name and phone number.

Johnston said he expects a ruling from the U.S. District Court in Minnesota soon.

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