Minnesota Fatigue Enforcement Program
The Minnesota Highway Patrol has just received orders from a judge which will force them to abandon their trucking fatigue enforcement program. The judge ruled this program to be unconstitutional and a violation of truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights.
The State Highway Patrol set up roadside inspections to try to determine how fatigued truckers were. This action caused the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) to sue saying that the patrol’s inspections violated truckers’ rights against illegal search and evidence collection.
Last January another judge found that the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association was correct. The judge let the trucking companies and the State Patrol try to construct a reasonable compromise in the hope that both sides could end up with a fair proposal.
Both groups, even under arbitration, were unable to achieve what they thought to be an acceptable compromise. Finally, on September 21, United States Judge Donovan Frank had no choice other than to issue a written order on behalf of those with truck driving jobs.
The judge’s written order clearly shows that the Highway Patrol was violating truckers' Fourth Amendment. The State Patrol could not continue to modify the standard trucking fatigue enforcement programs which are already in place.
Judge Frank stated that officers may observe truck drivers for clues that they may be fatigued, but they cannot continue investigating unless the driver gives them clear and unmistakable signs of fatigue.
The judge also noted that the State Patrol could not use deceptive and deceitful tactics with the truck drivers. Truck drivers must be informed of the intent of the questions, and they can decline to answer any questions.
The State Patrol needs to make this judgment public by posting replicas of this decision on their website and at places where commercial enforcement actively conducts business. The State Patrol also needs to email all employees who presently work for, or have worked for commercial enforcement in the past.
This ruling is in response to what happened to Stephen K. House on May 10th, 2008, where he was grilled about many topics, none of which had anything to do with how fatigued he was. Stephen was asked questions such as if he had pornography in the truck, whether he woke up while his wife was driving, and whether he had a TV in his berth.
The judge ruled that these types of question rarely have anything to do with how tired a truck driver is, and they should not be asked.
This suit was originally filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and trucking companies in May of 2009. It was filed after officers from the State Patrol revoked licenses of those with truck driving jobs who were deemed to be “fatigued.” The officers used checklists to try and discover how tired the truck drivers were.
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