Trucking industry fights back in suit over electronic logging mandate

The trucking industry is fighting back against a lawsuit by owner-operators attempting to delay a mandate that would eliminate paper log books by some 3.5 million long-haul truck drivers.

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The trucking industry is fighting back against a lawsuit by owner-operators attempting to delay a mandate that would eliminate paper log books by some 3.5 million long-haul truck drivers.
The Trucking Alliance for Driver Safety and Security (Trucking Alliance) and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have filed a joint “friend of the court” brief in the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on the matter. In the brief, truckers support of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) effort to fend off a legal challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) to stop the agency’s electronic logging device (ELD) rule for truck drivers.
The federal rule requires ELDs in most commercial trucks by December 2017. FMCSA issued the rule last Dec. 16. That rule implements Congress’s 2012 mandate to require ELDs for interstate commercial trucks. OOIDA maintains that ELDs are no better than handwritten paper logs when it comes to hours of service compliance or highway safety.
“Our amicus brief explains that ELDs are a critical component of the transportation industry’s commitment to improving highway safety by adopting new technologies,” R. Jay Taylor, Jr., partner in the law firm of Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, Indianapolis, which is representing the motor carriers.
“ELDs make hours of service compliance easier, cheaper and improve highway safety by helping to ensure that truck drivers get the rest they need,” Taylor added in a statement.
The lines are clearly drawn, once again, between owner-operators and large trucking companies. Trucking interests say privately that some owner-operators fudge their paper logs, which gives them an unfair advantage while operating under more restrictive hours of services regulations. Many large carriers moved to ELDs in the past decade for efficiency, safety and cost controls.
“Operating a large commercial truck is not an entitlement, but a privilege, and we have a moral responsibility to make sure our truck drivers are properly trained, drug and alcohol free and properly rested,” said Steve Williams, president of the Trucking Alliance and chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, a flatbed carrier based in Little Rock, Ark.
“When ELDs are installed in every commercial truck late next year, they can be the technological platform upon which our industry can build a safe and efficient supply chain for the future,” Williams added.
Nonsense, retorts OOIDA, which claims 157,000 members nationwide. OOIDA says there is no relationship between ELDs and improved truck safety. Instead, it calls them an harassment tool and a violation of the 4th Amendment covering illegal search and seizure.
“The agency (FMCSA) provided no proof of their claims that this mandate would improve highway safety,” OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said in a statement. “They didn’t even attempt to compare the safety records of trucking companies that use ELDs and those that do not.”
OOIDA said there is “simply no proof” that the costs, burdens and privacy infringements associated with the ELD mandate are justified.
“For most truckers, a truck is not just a vehicle but is also an office and a home away from home,” Johnston added. “This mandate means monitoring the movement and activities of real people for law enforcement purposes and is an outrageous intrusion of the privacy of professional truckers.”
In their amicus brief, the Trucking Alliance and Advocates for Highway Safety say fatigued truckers driving excess hours is a clear and present safety danger. They cited a survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which estimated that one-third of truck drivers admitted to manipulating their paper logbooks to conceal their true hours of service.
“ELDs are superior to paper logs for recording hours of service and have substantial and far-reaching benefits,” the Trucking Alliance’s brief says. It notes that all 28 European Union (EU) nations require such tamper-proof electronic devices. They are also utilized in countries such as Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela, Israel, Turkey, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
“ELDs make HOS compliance easier and make cheating harder,” the Trucking Alliance brief says.
Congress called for ELDs to be adopted when it passed the Moving Ahead for Program for the 21st Century (MAP-21) highway authorization in 2012. The Trucking Alliance says that ELDs will continue to be adapted even if OOIDA successfully delays mandatory implementation.
“The problem will be that unscrupulous operators who wish to reserve the opportunity to circumvent the HOS rules will retain an unfair competitive advantage over those who seek to comply with the rules, all at the expense of the safety of the motoring public,” the Trucking Alliance says.
While OOIDA says ELDs enforcement amounts to harassment, the trucking companies directly counter that argument in their brief.
“Paradoxically, blocking the ELD rule will create the risk of the very type of harassment OOIDA complains of,” the truckers’ brief says. “The ELD rule bans driver harassment and includes strong technical and procedural safeguards against harassment. Without the ELD rule, those protections will be gone.”
The safety advocates and the trucking companies called FMCSA’s final rule “a model of thoughtful, thorough and reasoned analysis,” and that the “rule works for everyone.”
“The Trucking Alliance and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety represent a broad, united spectrum of highway users and transportation companies that know these ELDs can make the highways safer for truck drivers and motorists alike,” Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, said. “We’re committed to making sure this congressional mandate becomes a reality.”

About the Author

John D. Schulz
John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. John is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis.

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