Battle Over Electronic Logs Continues, Takes Effect Dec. 2017

Back in December of 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a final rule that stated all semi-trucks that are model year 2000 and newer and used in interstate commerce will have to be equipped with electronic logging devices by December of 2017. Since that mandate has come out, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been fighting against it.

This argument over mandatory e-logs is nothing new. In 2011, a similar rule was proposed. That rule was challenged by the OOIDA. At that time, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the rules based on the claim of driver harassment. The three-judge panel that sat over that appeal isn't the same set of judges that are hearing this new appeal; however, the questioning that took place on Sept. 13 of this year for the new appeal was much like the previous set of questions.

Lawyers for the OOIDA presented five arguments in a written brief. They were given 30 minutes to defend the position of the OOIDA to the panel of judges.

Driver Harassment

Based on the winning argument they made in 2011, lawyers for OOIDA noted that there isn't a guarantee that the e-logs wouldn't be used to harass drivers. Essentially, the lawyers noted that there isn't a way to guarantee that e-logs would only be used to ensure compliance with the Hours of Service regulations.

Device Limitations

When it comes to HOS regulations, truckers have to track driving time and time spent on non-driving duties. The lawyers for the OOIDA argued that the e-logs don't have the capability to differentiate between driving and non-driving duties in a meaningful way that could be used to ensure HOS compliance.

Privacy Concerns

The privacy of truckers who are being monitored by e-logs was also called into question. Congress mandated that trucker privacy be included as a main point in the design of e-log programs. There isn't any guarantee that this has been taken into consideration, and lawyers for the OOIDA made this argument a full circle one that went back to driver harassment.

Unproven, Overstated Benefits

Regulators have noted that the e-logs will make the trucking industry safer by ensuring compliance with the HOS regulations. In a 2014 study, it was found that there wasn't any difference between e-logs and paper logs when it came to fatigue-related crashes that were recordable. Essentially, OOIDA lawyers argued that the FMCSA's cost-benefit analysis wasn't based on fact and that having to install e-log devices on trucks placed a financial burden on truckers without the benefit of remarkable increases in public safety.

Fourth Amendment Violation

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people from warrantless searches and seizures. The OOIDA argued that based on a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling, mandatory e-logs are a violation of the trucker's Fourth Amendment rights. The 2012 ruling from the USSC noted that law enforcement agencies couldn't place tracking devices on a citizen's personal vehicle without a warrant. The brief notes that the mandatory e-logs force truckers to install tracking devices or face not being able to carry on with their income-earning business.

Truckers, lawmakers and those within the industry will have to wait for the judges to go through the case and make a determination. This can take anywhere from three months to more than a year, because there isn't a deadline for the decision.