Court Overturns Onboard Truck Recorder Rule

Court Overturns Onboard Truck Recorder Rule

A federal appeals court overturned a rule that would require certain trucking companies to use electronic onboard recorders to monitor drivers.

The ruling could be a stumbling block to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration efforts to mandate use of EOBRs to tighten safety enforcement. The agency did not do enough to ensure carriers would not use the EOBRs to harass drivers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said Friday.

The court sent the rule back to the FMCSA for revision. The rule would require carriers that habitually violate the hours of service rules to install EOBRs. The final rule, released in April 2010, would take effect next June.

The ruling is a victory for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which opposed the EOBR rule on several grounds, starting with harassment.

The group argued that the rule was arbitrary and capricious because it did not ensure employers wouldn’t use the devices to harass truck drivers. The agency is required to do so by law, the association said.

The OOIDA also said the FMCSA’s analysis did not demonstrate the benefits of the technology and that a mandate would violate drivers’ privacy rights. The court did not address those claims, but focused on the harassment issue.

“Companies can and do use technology to harass drivers by interrupting rest periods,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the OOIDA. "They can contact the driver and put on pressure to get back on the road to get the most of his or her on-duty time, regardless of how fatigued a driver may be.”

But EOBRs and electronic logs can also be used to ensure drivers don’t exceed hours of service limits, helping to prevent fatigue, other trucking interests argue.

“Electronic logging devices are an important tool for improving hours of service compliance,” the American Trucking Associations said in response to the ruling.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc