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FMCSA electronic logging rule survives court challenge

Most truck drivers in Texas and around the country will no longer be allowed to use paper log books to track their working hours after Dec. 18, 2017. That is the day when a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule goes into effect that calls for electronic logging devices to be fitted to commercial vehicles with model years starting with 2000. The rule, which was first proposed by the FMCSA in 2010, has had a difficult history, and it has been challenged in federal court on two occasions by truck drivers and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Both of the challenges to the FMCSA electronic logging devices rule were heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. In 2011, the court quashed the rule after determining that the FMCSA had not done enough to prevent truck drivers being harassed by their employers, but a three-judge panel determined that these issues had been resolved when they were called upon to ruled on the issue again.

The second challenge to the rule was filed in March by the OOIDA on behalf of two truck drivers. The advocacy group claimed in its lawsuit that the FMCSA rule denied truck drivers rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The organization also maintained that the rule did not meet strict requirements laid out by Congress. The judges voted unanimously to uphold the rule after hearing oral arguments from both parties in September. The final ruling was handed down on Oct. 31.

Establishing that a truck driver was fatigued or distracted at the time of a crash can be difficult for accident investigators and personal injury attorneys representing truck accident victims. Electronic devices that record how long truck drivers have spent behind the wheel could provide crucial evidence to accident lawsuits, and attorneys may also check FMCSA records to find out if truck drivers or operators have been cited in the past for safety violations or reckless behavior.

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