Supreme Court rejects last-ditch effort to block ELD rule

Court refuses OOIDA’s final appeal; rule to go into effect in December

A last-ditch effort to get the upcoming electronic logging device (ELD) mandate overturned has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has asked the Supreme Court to intervene and hear the case. The Court declined to take up the case this morning. OOIDA was seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that rejected the group’s arguments that FMCSA’s ELD mandate violated 4th Amendment rights of truck drivers against warrantless search and seizure. It also argued that the rule did not meet Congressional requirements before FMCSA finalized it.

A Chicago 7th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel heard the case last September, but rejected OOIDA’s arguments in October. An appeal to the entire 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was also rejected. In March, OOIDA asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

With its legal challenges exhausted, the ELD rule will now move forward and be fully implemented as of Dec. 18, 2017 even as OOIDA promises to continue the fight to stop the law.

In a statement to its association publication, Land Line, OOIDA’s president noted that, while disappointed in the decision, the association has not given up.

“We will continue to pursue the issue on the congressional side as there are still many questions about the technical specifications and enforcement aspects of the mandate,” President Jim Johnston said. “Until the government is able to answer many fundamental and basic questions about the mandate, they should at least delay its implementation.”

“As hopeful as we were that the Supreme Court would hear our case, OOIDA has been diligent in working on other alternatives to prevent this burdensome regulation from going into effect in December. One of our options has been and continues to be Congress,” Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of government affairs, was quoted as saying by Land Line.

ELDs automate the process of recording a driver’s compliance with hours-of-service rules. The ultimate impact of Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s regulation is still being debated. Some believe the industry will see up to a 20% decrease in capacity, although most estimates peg it at 4-10%, depending on applications.

The ELD rule states that any driver currently using a paper log must install an ELD. Fleets using AOBRD devices must be using certified, registered ELDs by December 2019.

More specifically, drivers must use an ELD if the carrier operates across state lines and for any driver who maintains eight or more days’ worth of duty status logs, out of 30 days. There are a few exemptions as well. FMCSA estimates this affects approximately 3.1 million commercial motor vehicles and 3.4 million drivers.

For starters, according to Noel Perry, Trucking and Transportation Expert with FTR Intel, the industry may see a significant shortage of drivers.

“The mandate, if executed in December and reasonably enforced, I suspect it will be about a 4% average effect (on productivity),” Noel Perry, Trucking and Transportation Expert with FTR, told FreightWaves earlier this year. “But that’s still [a need to hire] 100,000 more drivers a quarter in an industry that hires 250,000 drivers per quarter. That’s a 30-40% increase in driver requirements per quarter if the worst happens.”

And that’s just to maintain current freight levels, Perry maintains.

OOIDA, which represents small carriers and owner-operators – some 95% of the industry, the ELD issue was also about preserving the independence of the American trucker and preventing government overreach.

In a May op-ed in its industry magazine, OOIDA explained the importance of fighting the ELD mandate.


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“The split decisions ordered in past courtrooms are strong reasons the U.S. Supreme Court should agree to hear OOIDA’s case involving the electronic logging device mandate. The trucking industry will suffer a knockout punch in December if the mandate is not stopped – and the nation’s entire economy will feel the pain,” the article stated.

“We believe that the Seventh Circuit erred in allowing warrantless searches of 3.5 million drivers, designed specifically to uncover evidence of criminal activity,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston said. “In doing so, the Seventh Circuit decision splits directly with rulings by both the Fifth and Eleventh Circuit Courts.”

In the end, the Supreme Court did not agree.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.