Supreme Court Weighs Whether to Hear Truck Drivers’ ELD Challenge

June 07, 2017 by Clarissa Hawes

In a last-ditch effort to overturn a federal mandate on electronic logging devices that track how many hours truckers drive, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has taken its fight to the highest court in the land.

Supreme Court justices are scheduled to debate Thursday whether to hear the trucker trade group’s argument against the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The case challenges the requirement to install the devices, or ELDs, in heavy-duty trucks. The federal mandate is set to go into effect on Dec. 16.

The issue has divided the trucking industry.

OOIDA argues that requiring ELDs on commercial vehicles would violate truck drivers’ privacy and foster carrier harassment over driving hours. The mandate would impact more than 3.5 million commercial drivers.

“This is government overreach at historic proportions, specifically targeting small business truckers,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, told “Not only will the mandated technology not improve safety, the required tracking in the measure goes to the very foundation of our nation and its constitution.”

But safety advocates, the American Trucking Associations and big motor carriers support the rule, arguing that it will prevent truckers from driving past legal limits determined by the so-called federal hours of service rules.

The FMCSA estimates that ELDs will prevent 1,844 crashes, 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually by keeping exhausted drivers off the road.

“ATA supports this important, and Congressionally-mandated, safety rule and we will continue to support FMCSA as they work toward the December implementation date,” said Sean McNally, spokesman for the ATA.

The industry expects to see the ranks of independent truckers shrink if the mandate survives. Many drivers aren’t willing to submit to the electronic tracking.

And while many large carriers have already made the switch over to electronic logs, many small-business truckers are still using paper logs.

“I do think there are a bunch of small carriers that they don’t have the intention of spending the capital to become ELD compliant,” said Adam Satterfield, senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer of Old Dominion Freight Lines. “It’s just different from the way they have been operating in the past and so I think you will see a bunch of these small carriers probably exit the market.”

Equipping roughly 500,000 U.S. trucking firms with these so-called electronic logging devices, or ELDs, looks to be about a $1billion business, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates.

While the justices might decide this week whether they will hear the case, the decision could drag out, said Paul Cullen Sr., attorney for OOIDA.

The justices may “defer a decision in the hearing” to request additional information from the Transportation Department, he said. The agency did not file a brief opposing the independent trucking organization’s petition by the May 15 deadline.

“We have put forth a strong petition on Fourth Amendment grounds and now we have to leave it up to the court, granting or denying the petition,” Cullen told

The ELD rule will expose commercial drivers to “warrantless inspections” intended to enforce driver compliance with the hours of service regulations, he said.

About 4 million commercial vehicle inspections are conducted every year throughout North America, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case and defers the mandate deadline, trucking veteran DuWayne Marshall of Watertown, Wis., said he would reconsider his planned exit from the trucking industry in December after 35 years.

“I would delay retirement for another year or so if the Supreme Court overturns the mandate or delays the implementation date for ELDs,” Marshall said. “Truckers are tired of having the screws tightened on them. Most guys didn’t get into trucking to have their every movement monitored – the freedom of the open road was the allure.”

OOIDA’s previous attempt to block the ELD rule was foiled in October 2016 when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected the owner-operator group’s arguments.

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23 Responses

  1. gary h

    If you carry a cell phone your every move is already monitored, so privacy is obviously not the real issue here. Running over hours to make more money or undercut responsible trucking companies is.

    • Big Jim

      Wrong.. how dare you make that assumption! A vast majority of us independent owner opetators/ drivers run legally, The issue here is the forcing of compliant trucks to run ELDs, which by the way, do not cause greater saftey, just look at the large carriers that use them already, wrecks and property damage,as well as injuries are up, some companies over 70%. We are not criminals, yet we are being forced to be monitored in a way similar to ankle monitors used on convicted criminals. There are also no clear rules on how the collected data can be used, or who has access. There are already protocol and procedures in place got enforcement under the current system. These devices, installed and maintained at my own expense, are simply for the enforcers convenience. I will not give away my rights and privileges, just because FMCSA doesn’t want to address the larger safety issues of expanding driver training, and hold the larger companies responsible for the ” get that seat filled as fast and cheap as possible ” hiring practices. 30+ yrs of safe operation kinda speaks for itself.

    • Michael

      If it makes a driver safer then why do you see more Swift drivers in crashes? Aren’t they on elogs and speed set about 63 mph? I stayed more exhausted when I was on elogs than I do on paper. The race against the 14 hour rule is what causes crashes and the big companies who have been out of school for 6 months and say let’s make him a trainer. I would rather shut down at 4 pm and sleep until 9 get up and breeze through Atlanta that deal with the idiot s in 4 wheelers where a crash is more than likely going to happen. I was going to buy me a truck until this B.S. came about. Now I am waiting to see what happens. If it passes I will buy an 99 or older truck and name my company rebellious outlaw transport. On the back initials on back that say F.T.D.O.T

  2. Sandy

    I see owner operators falsify their paper logs today. If your company is doing an audit you will see that the back-up paperwork does not match the logs. Our company has both company drivers on ELD’s and owner operator’s on paper logs and the owner operator can be very creative on their logs so they can work longer and make more money. Now in California that they’ve done away with the B.I.T. program the owner operator basically does what he wants until caught by either the auditor or the commercial officers. To many owner operators driving over hours causing accidents. What do you do when the owner operator is in an accident and kills someone and the officer sees that they are over the federally mandated hours? What would you did if it was your family in that accident and how would you handle the fact that the driver was fatigued or distracted? Just saying been in the Safety industry since “94” and battled this problem each time the Feds change the regulation.

    • Big Jim

      When you have staff in your ” safety department” who are there for one reason, to “correct” the elds, like large carriers do, is yhere really that big a problem with accuracy, or is it the “dept of falsification”? If it’s an accuracy issue, then let’s wait till that is improved, if otherwise, then that speaks volumes about the folks pushing these mandated boxes.

      • Cletus

        What you apparently are unaware of is that while the logs may be edited, there is a record of the original log and a valid reason must accompany the edit. Also, drive time may be edited but the reason for the edit must fit an even stricter parameter than the other duty status edits. Finally, once the driver “approves” or “certifies” a day’s log, no edit can take place. It’s essentially a signed legal document at that point.

    • Jeff Rahn

      Cute how you are totally against Owner Operators and try to justify it by making claims that only they suposedly falsify logs to run longer. Take your sanctimonious crap somehwere else. Companies that run elog reset drivers hours and change their on duty time all the time. Seen it done many, many times.

  3. Tim

    But I have never been forced to buy a cell phone, then forced to hand it over to law inforcement officials to have it searched without a warrant, or at least reasonable suspicion, just that I’m operating a commercial vehicle and they can.

  4. Beverly

    How does it really make a driver a safer driver? I am more stressed out now trying to find parking for mandatory 30 minute break, getting more frustrating and aggravated with slow rush hour traffic, trying to beat the clock to get my miles, getting more agitated with shippers/receivers that load/unload too slow. All the ELD has done for me is keep dispatch off my back, they see how many hours I have left for the day or from my 70. Please, where did they get the idea that these black-box bosses would make us safer. And where did they come up with the stats? I bet if you put speed limiters and ELD’s in four wheelers you will see a more drastic drop in accidents.

  5. Scott Tidwell

    The problem is drivers should be allowed 15 hours on duty period broke up anyway needed and not micromanaged when to take a break when to rest when to sleep when to get stuck in traffic and everything else
    Drug and alcohol use among drivers is higher than its ever been and it’s because drivers are forced to sit in truck stops way to long with current regulations too much time and bad
    influence for 12 straight hours just thoughts from a guy that started his company with one truck and me
    driving it who now has over 150 power units

    • John Farmer

      I have reached the same conclusion. I believe some limits are necessary and ELD’s make it easier for everyone to deal with the limits. But we need more freedom to deal with the daily differences in traffic, workloads, mileage, and parking spot availability. There are simply too many variables beyond our control to force us into specific time brackets. I have driven against my own judgement on many occasions only because the 14 hour clock demanded it.

  6. Tim

    It’s a rat race now with 1.5 million drivers driving to beat the clock now, wait till you have over 5 million drivers trying to beat the same clock, it’s going to be a major rat race with no beginning and and no end.

  7. Matt Wrobel

    I am a owner operator with only one truck, and I DO NOT like the idea of HAVING to drive when I get a little tired becouse my computer tells me I have to and then tells me when to stop. I know what I’m doing, I will NOT have my career led by a COMPUTER!!!

  8. Shawn

    You talk about that worthless ATA but you check other group besides OOIDA. Why as I owner of one rig put some computer in my rig that I can do the same thing with pen and paper and not have an excuse the wifi doesnt work for my last seven days

    Tony Justice said it best. These elogs do not improve the safety and well being of the driver

  9. Donna Sleasman

    The ELD can only be accurate 45% of the time if you drive for 11 hours a day. The
    reason for this is the only thing it can accurately measure is actual movement of the the truck. Everything thing else has to be manually imputed, so it has no way of knowing if I’m really in the sleeper, so how is that going to improve safety? I can say I’m in the sleeper and get no sleep and 10 hours my dispatch can say you’ve got your hours back you need to get moving. If I’m running on paper I control the narrative with dispatch and can tell them when I can run and they can’t tell me “your hours are reset, you need to get moving”. Also the guy who runs illegally on paper isn’t going to change his habits. He just going to figure some way to try and beat the system.

  10. John cook

    Land of the free…sounds more like commies have taken over.

  11. Dan

    We DESPERATELY NEED a hours of service rule set that is reduced to 2 lines, on duty and off duty. The 14 hour clock needs to go away, that would stop this rat race against the clock that breeds NOTHING but danger and Mayhem. I do not disagree with a 12 to 14 hour limit in a 24 hour period and there should be a requirement for a minimum of an 8 hour rest period at some point in any 24 hour day/period other then that it should be driver discretion to decide to drive or sit, this would alloy the DRIVER to park during high volume traffic times, or to avoid bad weather, accidents, and other unforseable circumstances.

  12. Earl

    If they (drivers) cannot read write or speak English when BIG companies hire them they have to a have way to log it ELG solves it for them of course and it’s all in the interest of safety

  13. Wade

    I am all for ELD if the goverment will hold someone else accountable for our wasted time mandatory detention after 2 hrs at a flat rate across the board for All carriers require all brokers to pass All monies on to carrier. Require on site parking and facilitys for drivers . But wouldnt that be forcing corporations to follow guidelines and decrease their profits.. that would affect Joe publics rights now wouldnt it.

  14. James

    Have the supreme court justices read a 5 min story then give them 2 min to explain the story all while being asked questions doging spit balls and see how well they do while racing against a clock..

  15. Jeremy

    Does the ATA with members from several mega carriers on their board that think everyone tbat stupid? Most of the accidents are caused by their drivers, are already on elogs, speed limiters. Elogs have nothing to do with safety period! Maybe they should start training drivers better. Not for Elogs, but who’s gonna pay us drivers when we sit for hours on end at a shipper or receiver?

  16. Jim

    ELD’s are coming and here to stay. Get over it. There are too many different eld companies, and too much money involved now. The fight should not be focused on the eld’s but the hours of service. What takes 7 hrs to run in the mid west can take 10 or more hrs to run in the north east with the same amount of miles or even less miles. Guidelines have to be in place for driver and public safety and accountability, but there has to be greater leniency with the hours of service rule.
    If I feel tired at 2pm or want to sleep through rush hour then I should be able to do so at my discretion. I should not have to drive feeling fatigued because of an eld or forced to drive/sit in rush hour traffic because of an eld. This half an hour break is a JOKE. It accomplishes nothing. More cluster at the all ready full truck stops and rest areas. Try finding a place to park in the north east during rush hour. Good luck.
    My question is why cant the FMCSA set limitations on the eld’s depending on the size of one’s fleet? An example: 10 or more trucks traveling interstate are required to have eld’s. Obviously a company of that size can absorb the cost of the eld’s better than a company with 1 or 3 or 5 trucks.

  17. steve

    simple answer here fellas everyone refuse to drive a ELD truck …been trucking for 30+ yrs and i personally will not drive a truck with a ELD in it……. if i’m the only one then so be it


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