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Chicago Appeals Court Strikes Down Regulation for Electronic Monitoring of Drivers Hours

The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has recently struck down a regulation that would require certain tractor-trailer drivers to use electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) to record the number of hours they drive each day, according to Courthouse News Service. The regulation, adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2010 and scheduled to take effect in June 2012, had been challenged by three drivers and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver's Association.

Paper Logbooks Often Falsified

Commercial drivers are required by federal regulators and state authorities to record the number of hours they drive daily in paper logbooks. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that overly fatigued drivers are not forced to, or don't voluntarily, get behind the wheel of the nation's big rigs and endanger themselves and the rest of the motoring public. However, the report notes that the paper logbooks are widely falsified and manipulated.

Court Has Concerns About Driver Harassment

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was concerned that an electronic device on board trucks could have the opposite effect of the invalidated regulation, namely allowing companies to place additional pressure on their drivers to drive fatigued in order to meet delivery and pick-up deadlines. "Drivers have been pressured by their motor carriers to perform at higher levels (and drive even when tired) as a result of the fact that an EOBR can send the carrier [real time truck location information]." wrote Judge Diane Wood in the Court of Appeal's ruling. "Even if the 2010 rule does not require that level of reporting, the technology certainly allows it." Judge Wood further noted that the FMCSA needed to consider if EOBRs were presently being used to "harass" drivers to drive longer hours and how EOBRs will guard against or contribute to this harassment.

Industry Group Supported Measure

Surprisingly, the requirement did have the support of the American Trucking Association (ATA), the trucking industry's largest trade association. A statement from the ATA president noted that, "FMCSA's research shows that compliance with the current hours-of-service rules is strongly associated with reduced crash risk. Of course, electronic logging devices are an important tool for improving hours-of-service compliance."