Court Strikes Down the Use of EOBRs Over Harassment Questions

In an important decision for trucking companies and those interested in truck driving jobs alike, the mandatory use of EOBRs (Electronic On board Recording) has been overturned by a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court,

This vitally important decision for truckers and the trucking business alike has showcased how regulations designed to enforce hours of operation remain in flux. The original rules applied only to truck drivers who had violated their hours of service requirements, but were eventually expected to apply to all interstate truckers.

The primary reason for the reversal was the finding by the court of a lack of detailed provisions to protect truckers from harassment by carriers. Depending on how future regulations are received, this could impact the entire truck driving industry. In response to this decision, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is reviewing the court’s decision to determine how they can modify their regulations to comply with it.

Independent truckers have complained that the use of EOBRs to limit driving time might also impact safety in other ways, as drivers would be forced to try and fill their quotas in a shorter period. In addition, truck driving jobs would become more difficult to fill, as it would be harder to defend against harassment on the part of regulators and companies.

As a part of her decision, Circuit Judge Diane Wood pointed out that the FMCSA had failed to address the harassment issue. In fact, it had not even listed any concrete procedures that might prevent the harassment of truck drivers. One of the demands the court made was that the agency work to create specific rules detailing both what harassment might consist of, and how trucking companies could prevent it. Without such rules, the independent owner-operator could very well find himself helpless in the face of both regulatory agencies and larger companies.

The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association applauded the decision, stating that it would protect truck drivers from future harassment. In addition, they were pleased that the court did not rule on other aspects of the regulations, leaving them open to a future legal challenge on behalf of the trucking industry. This legal issue remains tremendously important to those who are interested in truck driving jobs and highly experienced drivers alike.

Ultimately, this conflict over the use of EOBRs is far from over. While the FMCSA has stated that it intends to revise the regulations to come into compliance with the court, it is unlikely that those changes will satisfy the concerns of independent drivers. The question of trucker privacy rights and how they apply to systems like the EOBR is certain to be revisited in court.

 

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