Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of FMCSA

Kevin Anderson Regulations, Transportation

The process of overturning a federal regulation is difficult and fraught with legal hurdles, and can be a difficult proposition. One trucking association learned this recently as the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied their petition to overturn a regulation regarding accident safety reporting. In certain situations like these, a petition for regulatory review can go directly to the court of appeals.

One of the biggest hurdles in getting regulations overturned is proving legal standing. Legal standing is a theory based in the Constitution of the United States. Article III is the portion of the constitution that deals with the federal courts. Within that section is a requirement that federal courts be limited to hear and decide actual cases and controversies.

This ‘cases and controversies’ requirement is based in a sound policy that prevents the courts from becoming policy promoters and deciders. What it means is that before a person can get a ruling from a federal court, that person or organization must show actual or imminent harm that is concrete and not hypothetical. In addition, the harm must be traceable to a defendant before a court can rule.

What Happened in This Case

This case was strange because it was centered on a regulation that would likely help some trucking organizations. The rule in question was recently issued by the FMCSA to relieve attenuator trucks from being reported on the crash indicator measure of the Motor Carrier Safety Status Measurement System. The reason is because attenuator trucks are meant to be involved in crashes, often to prevent worse crashes down the road.

The plaintiff in the case, and the trucking organization representing him, had a unique argument as to why the regulation should be overturned. Their primary argument was that the rule had not been released for public comment and notice, and should therefore be overturned. While federal law does require new regulations to be released for public notice and comment before it is implemented, the court did not even get to this issue.

The court could not address the merit of the argument because the company could not show any harm from the regulation. They argued that failing to report all crashes put him at a disadvantage because it would make it harder for him to compete with companies that got into more crashes with their attenuator trucks than he did, but the court did not buy that argument. According to their opinion, this argument of disadvantaged competitor did not rise to the level of a case or controversy under the U.S. Constitution. So now the regulation will stay in place, and this case has been dismissed.

Your Transportation Law Partner

The legal landscape involving transportation companies changes on a seemingly daily basis. There are court rulings, federal regulations, and state and city rule changes that happen all of the time. Your company needs the right legal team in your corner to help you navigate through all of these changes, and represent you when your trucking company faces a lawsuit. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C., we have years of experience helping trucking companies in all their legal predicaments. Contact us today so we can begin working with you.