Federal Mandate for Electronic Logging Devices Upheld in U.S. Court of Appeals’ Ruling


By: Parker M. Green

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s mandate requiring most commercial truck drivers to use electronic logging devices (ELD) survived its strongest legal challenge to date when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously to uphold the regulation.  As a result, the transportation industry still faces a December 18, 2017 compliance deadline with the ELD mandate.  In order to comply, any driver who currently records their duty status with paper logs must install and adopt ELDs to record hours-of-service.

The 7th Circuit’s decision comes after the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (“OOIDA”) filed a petition seeking to have the FMCSA’s mandate for installation and use of ELDs overturned.  OOIDA presented five arguments for vacating the mandate: (1) ELDs will not record enough information automatically; (2) the ELD mandate fails to sufficiently protect drivers from harassment; (3) the benefits of the ELD mandate will not outweigh its costs; (4) the ELD mandate fails to protect the confidentiality of personal data collected by ELDs; and (5) the mandate violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, i.e., a commercial driver’s right to privacy.  The 7th Circuit rejected OOIDA’s arguments and upheld the FMCSA’s mandate in its entirety.

As to the argument that the FMCSA’s new mandate violates commercial drivers’ rights under the Fourth Amendment, the 7th Circuit specifically held the commercial trucking industry is a “pervasively regulated industry,” and the ELD mandate (1) was informed by a substantial government interest, (2) warrantless inspections were necessary to further the regulatory scheme of the proposed regulations, and (3) the inspection program permitted under the ELD mandate provided a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant.  See, New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 692, 702-03 (1987).

As such, the 7th Circuit determined the ELD mandate is not “arbitrary or capricious, nor does it violate the Fourth Amendment,” and upheld the FMCSA’s proposed regulations.  OOIDA still has the option to appeal the 7th Circuit’s ruling to the United States Supreme Court.  However, in light of the 7th Circuit’s opinion (click here), the FMCSA’s mandate for ELDs appears as if it is here to stay.  That means nearly all transportation providers have until December 18, 2017 to begin using qualified ELDs to record their compliance with the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations.  As the compliance deadline draws closer, transportation providers and insurers must also prepare for the liability and evidentiary implications of ELDs proliferating through the industry.

Several members of Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP’s transportation law practice group published an article in the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association’s 2016 Law Journal introducing many of the potential legal implications to the defense of personal injury claims. The law journal article is available at the following address:  2016 GDLA Law Journal. On November 10, 2016, this author will also participate in a panel discussion on the ELD mandate during the Georgia Motor Trucking Association’s annual Fleet Expo.  For additional information on the panel discussion, please refer to the GMTA’s announcement on the Fleet Expo.