Truck Driving Monitors Rejected by Appeals Court

An appeals court has thrown out federal regulations that would have required electronic monitoring devices in the trucks of companies that have a track record of keeping drivers out on the roads too long. 

Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed a new rule that would have put Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) that monitored time on the road in the trucks of companies that were the worst offenders of current limits on truck driving. The rule, an effort to prevent truck accidents, was designed to ensure that the companies did not push tired drivers to keep driving.

However, late last month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit threw the rule out after it was challenged by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which argued that those companies could use the same devices to harass drivers to drive even when tired, enforce company policies and monitor behavior that had nothing to do with their time on the road. According to the lawsuit, the FMCSA’s own analysis of the rule confirmed that abuses were possible in that regard.

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OOIDA also complained that there was little in the way of actual benefits shown to justify the costs the monitors would have imposed on small businesses.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations limit truck drivers to a maximum of 11 hours driving between 10 consecutive hours off duty. They may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days and can only restart a new 7 to 8 day work cycle after taking 34 or more hours off duty.

The regulations are meant to prevent tractor trailer accidents caused by tired drivers whose judgment and reactions are slowed, or who fall asleep behind the wheel.

Under the rule, the devices would have to be installed on all interstate commercial motor carriers that have larger than a 10% rate of noncompliance with the hours-of-service rules during any single compliance review.

In 2006, there were more than 385,000 tractor trailer accidents throughout the United States. They accounted for about 4% of all vehicles involved in a traffic injury and were linked to 8% of all fatal accidents, resulting in at least 4,732 deaths. Federal safety regulators say those numbers, while declining, are out of proportion with the number of trucks on the road.


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