Drivers

Judge Puts Minnesota Fatigue Program to Sleep

January 30, 2011

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A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the Minnesota State Patrol's use of CVSA Level III inspections to determine fatigue violates truckers' Fourth Amendment rights.


Calling the decision "a major victory," Paul Cullen Sr., of The Cullen Law Firm representing the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told Land Line Magazine that Minnesota's fatigue tests are beyond the scope of CVSA's Level III inspections, and before such a test could be conducted, officers must have "reasonable articulable suspicion."

In other words, the driver must exhibit or have shown clear signs that he or she was obviously fatigued.

Minnesota have been using a check list of sorts that officers at roadside could consult to see if the certain activities, the driver's physical appearance or condition, or even the condition or appearance of the truck or cab interior might indicate a driver was tired of fighting fatigue.

The checklist includes items such as the presence in the cab of a computer or a cell phone, a TV or DVD player, food or food wrappers in the cab, untidy or unkempt driver appearance, and the presence of tools or debris on the sleeper's mattress.

OOIDA member and plaintiff, Stephen K. House, filed the lawsuit against the Minnesota State Patrol and individual officers on May 13, 2009, on behalf of truck drivers placed out of service after members of the patrol consulted a checklist and arrived at the conclusion the drivers were "fatigued."

"None of the observations made in House's inspections - which include neck size, urination habits, presence of Playboy magazines, TVs, and computers in the cab - none of those factors satisfy reasonable articulable suspicion," Cullen said.

The decision in this case will have an effect on fatigue enforcement in other states as well as Minnesota, Cullen noted.

"The judge's findings, if followed, will affect other states as well that are conducting fatigue inspections," Cullen told Land Line. "Level III inspection procedures are not broad enough to allow officers to inspect for fatigue. This means that they will need to have reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause in order conduct such inspections."

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