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Federal Rule Requiring Electronic Logbooks for Trucks Faces Legal Challenge

Falsification of paper logbooks by truckers under pressure to meet tight deadlines has been a problem for years. In 2003, when federal regulators were writing rules on the number of hours that drivers can be on the road at any one time, the alteration of logbooks was found to be widespread. That situation hasn't changed and may even have intensified since then.

That's why federal regulators are now trying to introduce electronic onboard recorders onto trucks. Electronic records are much more difficult to falsify. They provide transparency on the numbers of hours drivers are on the road and in so doing help to prevent fatigued drivers from causing truck accidents.

That is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a new rule requiring that electronic logbooks be used by companies with problematic safety records.

Elements of the trucking industry, however, have been resistant to the new rule. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers association sued to block it. By contrast, the American Trucking Associations, the largest trucking organization, supports the rule.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers argued that the rule threatened to use technology to harass drivers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, agreed - and struck down the role, as currently written, in the states served by the Seventh Circuit: Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The Seventh Circuit's ruling does not directly apply in Tennessee. But it does indicate the Congress and federal regulators have more work to do in finding the right mechanism to enforce hours of service limitations on truckers.

Meanwhile, even in the states of the Seventh Circuit, trucking companies can choose to voluntarily install electronic logbooks. And indeed that is what several companies have already done.


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