The hours that commercial vehicle drivers in North Carolina and around the country spend behind the wheel will be logged by electronic devices beginning in December 2017 as planned after a federal court ruled that the rule mandating them does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published the rule in December 2015, but it has been roundly opposed by both truck drivers and advocacy groups for the trucking industry.
The FMCSA says that the paper logbooks currently used by truck drivers to keep track of their hours can be falsified easily or destroyed in a crash. Electronic devices are considered to be far more reliable, but their use has raised privacy concerns from industry groups including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The OOIDA filed a lawsuit in March on behalf of two truck drivers claiming that the new rule violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and did not meet standards set by Congress, but a panel of three federal appeals court judges dismissed these arguments and voted unanimously to uphold the rule on Oct. 31.
The same court quashed the original draft of the rule in 2011 because it felt that the FMCSA had not done enough to protect drivers from harassment. However, the latest decision shows that the judges are satisfied with the way the federal agency has addressed these issues. The OOIDA did not immediately say if they plan to appeal the decision.
Personal injury attorneys will likely welcome any regulations that aim to reduce the number of truck accidents involving fatigued drivers. The data captured by electronic logging devices may help accident investigators to determine if drowsiness contributed to a crash, and attorneys could also use this information to establish negligence in an accident victim’s lawsuit.