Written by Megan Bush, Manager of Safety Policy, ATA
In December 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued its final rule requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) for most drivers and carriers currently required to keep paper logs.
Shortly after the rule was finalized, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) filed a legal challenge against it.
While the group was successful in having a previous ELD rulemaking vacated, ATA believes that OOIDA’s arguments against the 2015 final rule won’t stand up to legal scrutiny. Let’s take a look at their primary arguments:
OOIDA alleges that FMCSA has failed to consider how to prevent ELDs from being used to harass drivers, as required by Congress.
This just isn’t the case.
FMCSA has included several provisions in the final rule to protect drivers from potential harassment.
For instance, the rule includes a specific prohibition against using information derived from an ELD to harass drivers, creates a procedure for drivers to file harassment complaints and establishes civil penalties for violations.
The rule also requires that ELDs either have a mute function or allow a driver to turn off the volume when the driver enters into sleeper berth status.
To guard against manipulation of a driver’s records, the rule states that ELDs must retain all original records and requires drivers to approve any edits to ELD records made by motor carriers.
OOIDA also claims that because drivers must still manually input changes to duty status when not driving (for example, when changing from on-duty not driving status to sleeper berth status), the ELD rule does not comply with Congress’ directive that ELDs record “a driver’s hours of service and duty status accurately and automatically.”
For decades, carriers have been voluntarily tracking hours-of-service using Automatic Onboard Recording Devices (AOBRDS), which, according to the safety regulations, must also be capable of “recording driver’s duty status information accurately and automatically.”
However, even compliant AOBRDs still require drivers to manually input some information.
When Congress mandated the use of ELDs in the 2012 highway authorization law, it did not create a new definition of “automatic” to mean that each and every driver movement or activity – including sleeping – be automatically recorded.
As such, it is reasonable to assume that Congress intended FMCSA to retain the definition as used by the Department of Transportation to regulate AOBRDs for the past 28 years.
Furthermore, while the technology to track a driver’s every moment – which would be required to implement such an extreme interpretation – technically exists, FMCSA points out that utilizing such technology would be grossly intrusive, and runs counter to the law’s requirement that ELDs not be used to harass drivers.
OOIDA also argues that because they can’t prevent all conceivable violations, ELDs won’t improve hours-of-service compliance, as the law requires.
However, the law doesn’t require ELDs to prevent all possible violations. It simply states that FMCSA must issue a rule that will improve compliance. And the evidence suggests that the 2015 final rule will do just that.
An FMCSA study has found that trucks equipped with devices to record hours of service had a lower overall crash rate and lower preventable crash rate than non-equipped trucks.
In addition, trucks with the technology had 53% lower driving-related hours of service violation rates than non-equipped trucks.
Wider adoption of ELDs will go a long way to reducing fatigued-driving and hours-of-service violations, making our nation’s roads safer for everyone.
For these reasons, it is ATA’s opinion and belief that the final ELD rule is a reasonable and balanced approach that will be upheld by the courts.
Compliance with the mandate is required beginning in December 2017, so fleets and drivers should review the rule’s requirements, start considering all of their compliance options and engage their legal counsel, as necessary, soon.
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