Court Hears Arguments on Electronic Logging Device Mandate

Carriers have until Dec. 10, 2017 to comply with a ruling mandating the usage of electronic logging devices (ELDs) on their trucks, replacing paper logs to track hours-of-service (HOS).  The ruling, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, will provide three main benefits:  improve safety by enforcing HOS compliance and therefore preventing fatigue, saving over $1 million in revenue by replacing paper logs, and “increase the efficiency of roadside law enforcement personnel in reviewing driver records.” 1

A lawsuit, filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) last July to overturn the mandate, made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for 7th Circuit in Chicago this week.

According to LandLine Magazine, the court focused on “the ability of electronic logs to ensure compliance and on what level they would be an improvement over paper logs; the use of collected data for anything but determining HOS compliance; Fourth Amendment arguments; and FMCSA’s lack of a cost-benefit analysis.” 2

OOIDA’s litigation team, The Cullen Law Firm, argued that drivers can still falsify ELDs just like they did paper logs, stating that they do not provide better HOS compliance since “much of noncompliance happens in the time when the truck is not moving.” 2

Driver harassment and privacy was also a concern brought up, addressing the question of what if law enforcement used ELDs not just for HOS compliance, but speeding tickets as well. 2

The fight for electronic logging devices has been ongoing since Jan. 2007, when the FMCSA issued a ruling that would apply only to those carriers in serious violation of hours-of-service to install electronic on-board recorders in place of paper logbooks. 3 That proposal was passed in 2010, however, the agency withdrew the ruling in 2012 to extend to all commercial vehicles, not just violators. 3But with concerns over driver harassment, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association successfully sued and the FMCSA had to alter the ruling to address concerns.

When the modified proposal passed the OMB in 2014, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) still expressed concerns, which included ensuring the “deployment of tamper-proof equipment” so that “transferring information to law enforcement officials subject to encryption or other security measures” are not at risk of having the drivers’ data intercepted by third parties. 4  The ATA also continues to remain concerned about driver harassment.

According to the FMCSA, mandating E-logs would 1) enforce compliance with hours-of-service rules and make it more difficult for drivers to cheat on their hours and 2) promote safety by reducing the risk of fatigue-related crashes, saving nearly 20 lives and preventing around 434 injuries a year. 5

The court will be considering both OOIDA and the FMCSA’s arguments and then decide on whether the rule will stand, be revised, or removed completely.  A time frame on the court’s decision is unknown at this time.