Independent Truckers Ask Appeals Court to Bar E-Logs
An independent truckers’ group asked a federal appeals court panel Tuesday to bar the government from requiring drivers to install devices that log their hours behind the wheel.
The electronic logging devices, known as e-logs, will be required in most trucks used for long-haul routes by late 2017 under guidelines put out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last year. The agency says e-logs will reduce accidents by making it easier to enforce limits on how long interstate truckers can drive.
The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in December 2015 that it will require truck drivers to use electronic logging devices ("e-logs") by the end of 2017. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), a trucking association/lobbying group that represents small business truck drivers, filed a lawsuit seeking to bar the government from enforcing the new rule. A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago heard oral arguments in the case on September 13, 2016. The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals will determine if the mandate is enforced as of December 2017.
The FMCSA has said that e-logs will help to prevent crashes through better enforcement of the maximum hours that drivers can spend on the road. Many larger trucking carriers, as well as the American Trucking Association, support the proposed rule. The ATA filed an amicus brief in favor of the proposed regulation, stating that it would make impossible a large percentage of noncompliance methods that are available through falsified paper logs.
OOIDA claims that the mandate should be vacated because it constitutes a violation of the driver's 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure and would result in driver harassment. OOIDA's position is that the rule would allow law enforcement officers and employers to track drivers' movements. It claims that such tracking by law enforcement is a violation of the drivers' constitutional rights and could result in other criminal citations. Tracking by the employer would result in pressure for drivers to operate in unsafe conditions if they had not yet hit the limit on available driving hours, according to OOIDA. Some smaller companies and independent drivers are reluctant to buy the devices for economic reasons as well. OOIDA has argued that it has not been proven that the benefits of the e-log system outweigh the costs.
The government has argued that the rule limits how the e-log data may be used and who can access the data. Only data supporting violations are reviewed and maintained by enforcement authorities, according to the FMCSA. In addition, civil penalties have been added should employers use the electronic logs to harass drivers.