Two trucking groups file briefs in ELD suit – backing the full mandate

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 6/24/2016

The lawsuit brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association seeking to overturn the electronic log mandate, has two more trucking-related groups along with a third group attempting to push the mandate forward with brief filed on Wednesday, June 22.

The American Trucking Associations and The Trucking Alliance, both Washington, D.C.-based large motor carrier interest groups, have filed amici curiae or “friend of the court” briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The Trucking Alliance was joined by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in their brief.

The three groups offered arguments siding with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and a full electronic log mandate.

OOIDA filed suit against the agency on Dec. 11, 2015, the day after FMCSA published the final rule mandating that all trucks model year 2000 and newer be equipped with electronic logging devices. The Association is seeking a petition of review of the rule and the procedures the agency followed in arriving at the rule. A successful review can result in all or part of a rule being overturned.

The June 22 filings by ATA and The Trucking Alliance both laud the benefits their member motor carriers have experienced by using the devices.

“ATA and its member companies … have a strong interest in seeing the final rule implemented, so that all motor carriers operating in interstate commerce who are subject to the rule’s terms will benefit from improved HOS regulatory compliance and reduction in fatigue-related crashes,” the ATA brief states.

The Trucking Alliance and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety shared similar reasoning for filing their brief in support of the mandate.

“The Trucking Alliance and Advocates have a considerable interest in the outcome of this case as representatives of the broad coalition that has worked tirelessly to develop, test, and promote the use of ELDs in the interest of highway safety,” the joint brief states.

The arguments in the filings do not come as a big surprise to OOIDA.

“They have been pushing for electronic monitoring systems for years,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston told Land Line Now. “They were strong proponents of it even before FMCSA started the rulemaking process – that and speed limiters.

“The reason they want to do that is because motor carriers that employ those electronic monitoring systems do so for company purposes, for management purposes, for productivity purposes,” Johnston said.

Underscoring Johnston’s assessment of the groups’ motivation, included in both briefs are arguments backing the increased productivity electronic logs bring.

“By eliminating handwritten paper logbooks and replacing them with electronic records, ELDs shorten the time it takes drivers to record their time and substantially reduce the effort required on the part of carriers to audit and manage their drivers’ compliance with the HOS rules,” The Trucking Alliance brief states.

The ATA brief tracked along the same lines.

“Many ATA members and others in the trucking industry have taken advantage of the 1988 rule to adopt (automatic onboard recording device) technology over the years as a means to improve their HOS compliance, lower administrative costs in comparison with paper logs, and reduce driver fatigue,” the ATA brief states.

Johnston said that quest for efficiency and ease of management has backfired over the years with record-high turnover of drivers who refused to agree to the monitoring and schedules dictated by companies using the devices.

“The problem they have is drivers weren’t going along with it. They weren't signing onto those companies. So the companies want to level the playing field – in their words. You force everybody to have them and the drivers aren’t going to have any choice,” Johnston said.

OOIDA’s fight against electronic logs goes far beyond logistics on the road, according to Johnston.

“It is extremely important because it involves Constitutional rights of truckers. If they can do this they can do just about anything,” Johnston said. “We don’t think they can and we don’t think they can get away with it. And we certainly do not intend to let them get away with this one.”

OOIDA has until Aug. 12 to file a response to FMCSA’s brief in support of the mandate, along with addressing the briefs filed by ATA and The Trucking Alliance along with the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

(Editor’s note: Tune in Monday, June 27, at 6 p.m. Central to listen to the full interview with OOIDA President Jim Johnston on Land Line Now, Sirius XM Channel 146.)

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