Litigation With FMCSA Carries On

Kevin Anderson Regulations, Transportation

The recently filed litigation with FMCSA against their new mandate that each trucker be equipped with a electronic logging device continues to heat up. The federal agency is scrambling to respond to allegations that the new ELD rule violates the Constitution, and goes beyond congressional mandates to the agency.

The latest lawsuit is one of many that have been filed against the agency throughout the years. Seemingly every rule that is promulgated by the agency is soon challenged by trucking support groups, and many of those won. In fact, the group suing the FMCSA for its latest ELD rule won a similar lawsuit in 2011 that invalidated the then newly minted rule on ELDs.

FMCSA Mandates ELD Use

The newest rule on ELDs was issued by the FMCSA in late 2015. The rule requires most truckers to acquire and use an ELD that can sync with a truck’s engine to record driving times, and other data points that correspond to driver behavior and federal rules. There is an implementation plan in place where different truckers are given dates by which they must have and use ELDs.

The FMCSA justifies the implementation of this new rule based on several factors. Those include:

  • a more accurate and easier way to record service time hours;
  • doing away with costly and cumbersome paperwork currently used to record duty hours; and
  • a safer working environment for truckers and fellow road travelers.

While these justifications sound nice and reasonable, there are questions being raised in the lawsuit over privacy and legality of the rule.

Fourth Amendment Concerns

One of the chief arguments of the latest lawsuit filed against the FMCSA is whether it violates the provisions of the Fourth Amendment. That hundreds years old right keeps each of us free from unreasonable searches and seizures of our property, information, and personal effects by the government. The question is whether it is unreasonable for the federal government to essentially track the every move of truck drivers as they go about their business of trucking goods across the country.

If the rule is upheld by the courts, one may reasonably ask about the implications for other areas of our private lives. If the FMCSA can require truck drivers to electronically record and report driving data to them for compliance with law, can the DOT do the same for drivers of personal vehicles? And does it open the door for other electronic tracking devices to be used in regulating behavior in other areas?

These questions and others are of great importance in the ongoing litigation about the validity of the FMCSA’s new ELD rule. A secondary consideration, and one the court will need to deal with in this case, is whether the FMCSA overstepped its legal authority to even establish the rule. True, congress has granted the agency with wide latitude to develop rules related to the trucking industry, but does that mandate include the authority to track every movement and moment spent by a trucker in his chosen profession?

Understanding Transportation’s Legal Landscape

At Anderson and Yamada, P.C., we have decades of experience in all the different areas of the law that affect transportation companies. We can help guide your company through the morass of federal regulations, and be your partner in whatever trucking-related litigation you are engaged in. Contact us today so we can begin working with your company.