In a lengthy opinion, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the legality of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s newest electronic logging device rule. Barring an appeal to the Supreme Court, in the coming years many truck drivers will have to install these ELDs to stay on the road.
The final rule was published by the FMCSA in 2015, and it immediately faced a legal challenge by the OOIDA. But this legal challenge failed, in part, because of the mandate issued by Congress in 2012 which directed the Department of Transportation to issue an ELD rule that would apply to most trucks. Despite that mandate, the petitioners in this case felt they could get a ruling in their favor.
Petitioners Arguments for Overturning the Rule
The petitioners in this case based their challenge on five different argument:
- ELDs do not record enough information automatically;
- the rule fails to protect drivers from harassment;
- the benefits of the rule do not outweigh the costs;
- driver’s confidentiality is not protected by the rule; and,
- the rule violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In its opinion, the court addressed each of these arguments at length, and ruled why they do not apply to the new ELD rule.
The group’s argument seemed to have the rule struck down because it did not comply with the congressional mandate to establish an ELD rule. They argued that because the enabling law required the agency to establish an ELD which operated automatically, human involvement could not be part of the mandate. This argument was denied because the court felt it took a too technical approach to the language of the statute.
The other four arguments about why the final ELD rule should be overruled were similarly dismissed without much resistance. The final argument, that the rule violates the Fourth Amendment, held the most promise, but failed based on a well established exception to the Fourth Amendment search and seizure principles.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution it is illegal for the state to search or seize something without a warrant. In their suit to throw out the ELD rule, the plaintiffs argued that having a tracking system on a truck that reported the trucker’s every move to the state violated that rule. But with every rule there is an exception, and the court in this case ruled that the new ELD rule falls within one of the well established exceptions to that rule: the highly regulated industry rule.
The highly regulated industry rule makes it legal for the state to inspect, search, and seize property in industries that are highly regulated and involve public safety. This exception allows the state to strike a balance between regulation and privacy considerations. And now the ELD rule will be implemented by next year.
As this and other changes continue to influence the trucking industry, you will need the guidance of seasoned trucking industry attorneys on your side. At Anderson and Yamada our team has decades of experience guiding trucking companies and advising them for all of their legal needs. Contact us today.