Electronic log mandate clears final review before implementation

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 11/17/2015

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will be rolling out its final rule mandating the use of electronic logs in all trucks operating in interstate commerce soon.

The final rule outlining the mandate, electronic log technical specifications of the devices, procedures for their use, and associated document retention cleared the White House Office of Management and Budget on Monday, Nov. 16.

The path to a final rule has been bumpy to say the least, and while this stage of the rulemaking process does not afford full disclosure of the contents of the regulation, its future could be equally murky.

FMCSA previously attempted a mandate on motor carriers with a severe noncompliance of the hours-of-service regulations. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was successful in defeating that regulation in court.

It took only one of the three arguments raised by OOIDA for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit to vacate the regulation.

The regulation under fire was the 2010 final regulation mandating the use of electronic on-board recorders for companies with a safety history that reflects a 10 percent or greater level of noncompliance with the hours-of-service regs in one compliance review.

OOIDA filed suit against the agency, contending that the rule was arbitrary and capricious because it does not “ensure that the devices are not used to harass vehicle operators,” as required by law. The Association’s lawsuit also contended that the cost-benefit analysis failed to demonstrate the benefits of the technology and that the EOBRs violate the Fourth Amendment.

The opinion from the 7th Circuit, prepared by Circuit Judge Diane Wood, stated that the court “need address only the first issue” of driver harassment.

Rather than retool the vacated rule, FMCSA has attempted to address the harassment issue and is going for a full mandate this time around.

As with all regulations there are a couple of reviews that must take place once the regulation is deemed complete by FMCSA: a review by the Office of Secretary of Transportation and a review by the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

Neither review went as quite as fast as FMCSA had planned. Why there were delays during either review is pure speculation, as those portions of the rulemaking process are not conducted in a public, transparent forum.

Although the electronic log final rule did clear nearly four days ahead of the latest FMCSA schedule. Before the early release, the agency planned to publish the final rule in the Federal Register on Nov. 30.

Unless the agency opts to release details of the regulation early, the first glimpse of the final rule will happen once the regulation is submitted to the Federal Register for publication.

Copyright © OOIDA