The trade group representing the nation's owner-operator truck drivers has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal government's mandate requiring all commercial vehicles built after the year 2000 be equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs).
The petition, which was filed last week and had been expected, is a last-ditch effort by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) to convince the courts to overturn the ELD mandate before it takes effect Dec. 18. The group is also lobbying Congress and the Trump administration to set aside the rule, which OOIDA President James Johnston has called the most far-reaching regulatory action in trucking industry history. Congress ordered the measure, which was drafted in December 2015 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in the federal transport-spending bill signed into law in mid-2012.
Last October, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the government mandate. In so doing, it struck down OOIDA's argument that the rule violates a driver's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure by requiring the prolonged use of a GPS device without a warrant. The court subsequently denied OOIDA's petition to re-hear the case.
The trucker group had also argued that because ELDs track only the truck's whereabouts and not the driver's, they are no more reliable than the traditional paper logs—whose use would be ended by the ELD mandate—to record compliance with federal driver hours-of-service regulations.
OOIDA is banking on the Trump administration's pro-business leanings, and his seeming affinity for truckers, to strike a regulation that could be viewed as unnecessary. However, most observers believe the ELD mandate will survive because it was ordered by Congress, has passed court muster, and is considered a benefit to road safety over the long term.
In the short term, ELD compliance is expected to reduce productivity, as drivers who fudged their paper logs to extend their drive times beyond federal guidelines no longer have the latitude to do so. That is because the data is being presented in real time, and cannot be manipulated by a driver.
Supporters of ELDs said the technology will require all carriers and drivers to operate within the law and will help shippers and carriers schedule accurate pickup times, along with sufficient dock and door labor, with more accuracy and precision. For example, an ELD can see when a driver has clocked into a shipper's facility, how long the driver was there, and whether delays at a dock or terminal have put a driver so far behind schedule that a load cannot be delivered within the hours-of-service guidelines.
In a February web site post, Bison Transport Inc., a large Canadian carrier, said that ELD use could eventually lead to an 8- to 10-percent increase in capacity as fleets start to master the tools to drive improvements in equipment and driver utilization.
Based on the most recent estimates, between 20 and 40 percent of all post-2000 vehicles were either equipped with ELDs or with some form of electronic recorder that was in place before FMCSA issued its mandate in 2015. The large fleets with deeper pockets are the predominant users of electronic logging equipment at this time.
The FMCSA has given fleets with electronic equipment that was installed before the mandate until 2019 to comply with the updated standards.