STATUS: OOIDA v. Minnesota State Patrol, no decision yet

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor | 12/16/2010

As of mid-December, the court has not yet ruled on OOIDA v. Minnesota State Patrol.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said this week that he expects a ruling from the U.S. District Court in Minnesota soon.

“There’s a lot at stake in this lawsuit,” said Johnston, “and we’re certain the court is giving the weight of our argument considerable evaluation.”

The case was tried in September in U.S. District Court for the district of Minnesota, in St. Paul, MN, and is now under advisement of Judge Donovan W. Frank.

OOIDA and member plaintiff Stephen K. House filed the case on May 13, 2009, on behalf of truck drivers placed out of service after members of the MSP consulted a checklist and arrived at the conclusion the drivers were “fatigued.” According to the lawsuit, members of MSP were instructed to consider the presence of a TV, reading material and a cell phone – to name a few – as signs of fatigue.

Included on OOIDA’s list of wrongs: Inspectors and commercial vehicle enforcement troopers did not have the authority to inspect for fatigue; had no accurate method of doing so at the roadside; failed to document recognizable, articulable suspicion; failed to establish probable cause; and violated truckers’ rights under the U.S. Constitution.

No ruling has been made at this date. Land Line reported in November that the patrol is back on the job 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.

OOIDA was informed on Nov. 1 that the moratorium was over. One week before a ruling was 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 told Land Line last month that the training was now complete and the patrol is back in the enforcement business regarding ill and/or fatigued commercial drivers.

O’Grady serves 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’s 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 800-444-5791. After hours, drivers can call Land Line Now’s listener comment line, 800-324-6856, and press 3. Make sure to leave a name and phone number.

Copyright © OOIDA