The courtroom battle over the validity of the electronic logging device mandate due to kick in next year has further heated up.

An amicus brief filed on June 22 by two prominent highway-safety advocacy groups backs up the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s defense of its ELD rule against a lawsuit, brought by the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, that contends the rulemaking is seriously flawed.

Image: U.S. Seventh District Court of Appeals

Image: U.S. Seventh District Court of Appeals

Just a week ago, on June 15, FMCSA forcefully defended the ELD rule in a brief that it was required to submit to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The trigger for both the FMCSA brief and the amicus brief was a Petition for Review of the ELD rule filed with the court by OOIDA back on Dec. 11, 2015— the day after the mandate was announced. 

Earlier this year, OOIDA said it sought the judicial review because it contends: (A) The rule violates Fourth Amendment rights against reasonable searches and seizures; (B) The costs associated with compliance are not justified; and (C) The mandate fails to comply with a congressional statute requiring ELDs to accurately and automatically record changes in drivers’ duty status. 

In its brief, FMCSA responded vigorously to OOIDA’s challenge, arguing that the ELD rule is constitutional as it does not violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches; that the mandate does not impinge on drivers’ rights to privacy, and that its cost-benefit analysis “amply supports” the rulemaking.

The amicus brief jointly filed by the Trucking Alliance for Driver Safety and Security and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is the latest development in the legal wrangling.

The two groups said they have stepped up to support FMCSA’s “effort to fend off a legal challenge” by OOIDA “to stop the agency’s ELD rule,” which will come into effect for most commercial trucks by December, 2017.

The Trucking Alliance and Advocates contend that “OOIDA maintains that ELDs are no better than handwritten paper logs when it comes to hours of service compliance or highway safety.” But the advocacy groups argue quite the opposite.  

“Our amicus brief explains that ELDs are a critical component of the transportation industry’s commitment to improving highway safety by adopting new technologies,” said R. Jay Taylor, Jr., partner in the law firm of Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C. “ELDs make hours of service compliance easier, cheaper and improve highway safety by helping to ensure that truck drivers get the rest they need.” 

“Operating a large commercial truck is not an entitlement, but a privilege, and we have a moral responsibility to make sure our truck drivers are properly trained, drug and alcohol free and properly rested,” said Steve Williams, president of the Trucking Alliance and chairman and CEO of Maverick USA.

“When ELDs are installed in every commercial truck late next year," he continued, "they can be the technological platform upon which our industry can build a safe and efficient supply chain for the future.” 

Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, pointed out that Advocates has “fought for decades” to see ELDs installed. “It is time to rid the industry of the outdated and unreliable use of phony comic books that allow truck drivers to flout HOS limits and jeopardize safety for everyone,” she said, referring to paper logbooks. “Driving too many hours is a recognized safety problem in the trucking industry and ELDs are a proven safety solution.” 

Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, added that the two groups “represent a broad, united spectrum of highway users and transportation companies that know these ELDs can make the highways safer for truck drivers and motorists alike. We’re committed to making sure this congressional mandate becomes a reality.”