In 2007, the federal Department of Transportation's Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued final rules requiring certain motor carriers to mandate use of electronic on-board records (EOBR) to monitor driver hours of service. EOBRs link mileage information through the driver's cell phone to allow the carrier to monitor the driver's activities. The DOT rules mandated use of EOBRs for carriers with certain hours of service violations, and allowed other carriers to use the devices to comply with existing hours of service requirements. These rules became final last year, with a June 2012 compliance deadline.
Last week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EOBR rules. In Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Ass'n v. FMCSA, the court concluded that the EOBR rules are arbitrary and capricious because DOT never took into account the possibility that the devices would be used to harass drivers. For example, the plaintiffs alleged that a motor carrier could use data from the EOBR to interrupt rest periods, and to pressure drivers to maximize allowable working time. The Seventh Circuit stated that DOT's analysis of driver privacy concerns did not substitute for a separate review of the harassment issue.
Unless reversed on appeal, DOT will be forced to revisit the EOBR rules. At best, this decision will delay implementation of the new rules for a year or more.