OOIDA hauls FMCSA back into court over electronic logs

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 12/14/2015

Just a day after the unveiling of a final rule that gives professional drivers no choice but to use electronic logs, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed suit against the heavy-handed mandate.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on Dec. 10 its final rule mandating the use of electronic logs in all 2000 and newer trucks in interstate commerce. The following day, Dec. 11, OOIDA filed a Petition for Review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

“This rule has potential to have the single largest, most negative impact on the industry than anything else FMCSA has done,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston said. “We intend to fight this with all the resources we have available.”

Johnston challenged the justifications the agency and anti-trucking groups have used to promote the mandated use of the devices.

“This regulation is absolutely the most outrageous intrusion into the rights of professional truckers imaginable and will do nothing at all to improve highway safety. In fact, we firmly believe it will do exactly the opposite by placing even more pressure and stress on drivers than they already deal with,” Johnston said.

Many drivers echoed Johnston’s point on Facebook.

“Where exactly is the safety factor for ELDs? You can still drive too fast, tailgate, fall asleep behind the wheel, and swerve into other traffic. There’s NO safety to it,” Ben Lujin shared.

“You know, you see all of these wrecks and it’s mostly the big companies that have the wrecks, not us small ones. I think this is a crock,” Jimmie Dimmitt shared.

Another key issue OOIDA takes exception with on the final rule is a driver’s right to privacy.

“While they choose to call it electronic logging systems, in reality it is an electronic monitoring system for law enforcement purposes. They can’t even do this to known criminals without a court issued warrant,” Johnston said.

Driver Josh Klausen argued this same point on Facebook following the announcement of the final rule.

“I never signed my Fourth Amendment right away. Driving down the road does not give them probable cause to stop me. I’m not a criminal. I’m trying to support my family and I’m getting real sick of a bunch of suits that have never been in trucks making rules that prohibit me from doing so,” Josh Klausen shared on Facebook.

This isn’t the first time OOIDA has taken FMCSA to court over an electronic log mandate.

The Association sued over the previous attempt by FMCSA to mandate electronic log use by companies with a safety history that reflected a 10 percent or greater level of noncompliance in one compliance review with the hours-of-service regs. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit vacated the rule and sent FMCSA back to the drawing board.

In the previous lawsuit, the Association presented three arguments against the mandated use of the devices. The court had considered the first of the three – harassment of drivers – when the three-judge panel decided they had enough to order the rule vacated.

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

Rather than revamp the limited-use logging final rule, FMCSA scrapped that rule after the court threw it out and issued the full-mandate final rule last week.

OOIDA’s Petition for Review on the new final rule filed on Dec. 11 does not outline the arguments the Association plans to challenge the rule on in court.

The Cullen Law Firm, OOIDA’s litigation counsel, anticipates a schedule for filings and arguments in the next couple of weeks. The Association’s arguments against the rule will be laid out in the subsequent filings and during oral arguments in front of the court.

“We knocked it down last time. Our goal is the same this time,” Johnston said.

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