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OOIDA: Minnesota lacked authority to enforce federal CMV regs

By Jami Jones
senior editor


Up until Aug. 1, 2009, the state of Minnesota had nothing in its state law that gave it the authority to enforce federal motor vehicle safety regs – including issuing fatigue out-of-service orders – according to a document obtained by OOIDA.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association acquired a document from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration through a Freedom of Information request that reveals the state of Minnesota had not properly adopted either directly or by reference the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Not having those regs on the state books means the state had no authority to enforce them.

The document, titled the “2008 Minnesota MCSAP Review,” also states that FMCSA did not delegate any authority to the state of Minnesota to enforce the federal regs.

FMCSA recommended that Minnesota take steps to correctly adopt FMCSA’s regulations and incorporate any amendments to such federal regulations into Minnesota law. Minnesota corrected its law effective Aug. 1, 2009.

The Association filed a lawsuit May 13 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of truck drivers who were placed out of service and in some cases fined after members of the Minnesota State Patrol arbitrarily arrived at the conclusion the drivers were “fatigued.”

The lawsuit stemmed from the discovery of a seemingly random checklist of items that supposedly indicated fatigue. The list included the presence of a TV, reading material, a cell phone – to name a few – as signs of fatigue.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The Association found that the program not only lacked medical or scientific justification, but also infringed on truckers’ civil and constitutional rights.

The original lawsuit charged that drivers were denied their rights to a hearing on the out-of-service orders and that the regulation under which the orders were issued fails both to define fatigue and to establish a standard under which a driver would know when to stop driving.

On Sept. 10, OOIDA moved to amend its complaint in Minnesota federal court to broaden its claim alleging that before Aug. 1, 2009, Minnesota state troopers lacked any authority to issue citations for safety violations of any kind to drivers for interstate motor carriers.

 “This revelation is astounding,” said Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA. “We now know that the problem is even bigger than we had originally thought.

 “Not only did state troopers not have the authority to put drivers out of service based on an outrageous checklist, but they had no authority to put drivers out of service for anything.”

The court has set the schedule for the lawsuit, which in court terms is actually a very fast-paced schedule leading to a trial date of Sept. 1, 2010. LL