In response to a petition by several independent drivers and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated the rule and sent it back to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for review.
The rule, scheduled to take effect next June, will require habitual violators of the hours of service rules to install EOBRs. Some 5,700 interstate carriers are likely to be affected, the agency has estimated. This rule is the precursor to a much broader mandate that will cover practically all carriers, probably several years from now.
The panel of three judges found that the agency did not provide enough detail on how it intends to prevent carriers from harassing drivers through these devices.
The agency does say in the rule that it is legally required to prevent harassment, but does not go into detail on how that will be accomplished.
In the decision, written by Circuit Judge Diane Wood, the court said the agency needs to describe exactly what steps must be taken to prevent harassment. It needs to consider what types of harassment already exist, how frequent and extensive the practice is, and how EOBRs will either allow or prevent harassment.
The agency could study these issues by comparing the experience of drivers in companies that use EOBRs with that of those that don't, the court suggested.
There are other problems in the rule, such as possible shortcomings in the cost-benefit analysis, but the harassment issue is enough to trigger a remand back to the agency for further action, the court said.
The decision is under review at the agency, said FMCSA Communications Director Candice Tolliver Burns.
"It's a fantastic decision," said OOIDA president Jim Johnston in a statement. "The decision dealt with the harassment of drivers but the court left room to come back and challenge other aspects if the agency gets overly enthusiastic about how they want to monitor truckers."