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  • Henry Seaton

Court backs electronic logging devices

A federal appeals court has upheld the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's rule mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) for drivers required to maintain records of duty status (RODS). Barring action by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress, the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit means that drivers maintaining paper logs will have to use either ELDs or automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) -- the current standard for electronic logs -- by December 18, 2017.

"We are disappointed and strongly disagree with the court’s ruling," said Jim Johnston, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which brought the legal challenge. "Because this issue is of vital importance to our members and all small business truckers, we are reviewing our next steps to continue our challenge against this regulation."

Five years ago, OOIDA successfully challenged in the same court an earlier FMCSA rule regarding electronic logs, but a year later Congress ordered FMCSA to issue a rule mandating ELDs.

In its latest challenge, OOIDA argued that the final rule issued in December 2015 should be invalidated for five reasons. The appeals court sided with FMCSA on each.

Automatic recording

OOIDA argued that the rule is contrary to law because it allows ELDs that are not entirely automatic. The appeals court disagreed. "Petitioners’ reading of the statute seeks to pit one statutory requirement against another rather than allow the agency to balance competing policy goals endorsed by Congress," the court said.

Protection against harassment

OOIDA contended that FMCSA defined "harassment" too narrowly. "This claim also fails," the appeals court said. "When defining harassment, the agency sought input from drivers, motor carriers, and trade organizations; it considered administrative factors; and it ultimately provided a reasonable definition of the term."

Cost-benefit analysis

OOIDA said that the agency’s cost‐benefit analysis was inadequate and failed to justify implementation of the ELD rule. "However, the agency did not need to conduct a cost‐benefit analysis for this rule, which was mandated by Congress," the court said. "Even if such analysis were required, the studies were adequate."

Confidentiality of data

OOIDA argued that FMCSA did not sufficiently consider confidentiality protections for drivers. "The agency, however, adopted a reasonable approach to protect drivers in this regard," the court ruled.

Search and seizure Finally, OOIDA contended that the ELD mandate imposes, in effect, an unconstitutional search and/or seizure on truck drivers. "We find no Fourth Amendment violation," the court said. "Whether or not the rule itself imposes a search or a seizure, inspection of data recorded on an ELD would fall within the 'pervasively regulated industry' exception to the warrant requirement. The agency’s administrative inspection scheme for such information is reasonable."

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