A commercial drivers’ interest group has brought a legal challenge against the government mandate requiring commercial vehicle owners to implement electronic logging devices or ELDs. The suit was filed on Constitutional grounds, with the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association contending that ELDs violate a driver’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.
In the action, OOIDA argued that these devices are unnecessarily intrusive. OOIDA president and CEO Jim Johnston said that the regulation is “an outrageous intrusion of the privacy of professional truckers.”
In considering that claim, it’s worth noting that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration--the agency responsible for enacting the ELD mandate—takes the issue of privacy and overreach quite seriously.
FMCSA is aware that a tracking and recording device might be perceived as an intrusion—or even be misused. That’s why the agency included specific provisions in the mandate to prevent what it terms harassment of drivers through use of ELD data.
There are several parts to the privacy guarantee built into the mandate. One is a stipulation that every ELD include a muting function that allows a driver to have uninterrupted sleep and off-duty time.
If an ELD can be muted when the driver isn’t on the job, the argument can be made that it’s less an annoying invasion of one’s personal time than, say, an email from the boss sent in those off hours.
Another limitation that FMCSA requires for ELDs is a limit placed on location tracking. When drivers are off duty or using a vehicle for personal use, their location can only be tracked within a 10-mile radius. Providing only a general idea of where the driver is located hardly qualifies as keeping track of his or her movements.
For the driver’s protection, the mandate has a provision designed to prevent falsification of reports. The raw original log is saved, edits are tracked and these have to be approved by the driver.
That offers more security than paper log sheets. In any event, keeping records—on paper or otherwise—has been a part of the industry for a long time. ELDs are newer technology to fulfill a requirement that has been in place for many years.
A different perspective on this issue is offered by a member of another drivers’ group. Lane Kidd, managing director for the Trucking Alliance, believes that these concerns are misdirected when it comes to ELDs and specifically to FMCSA. Kidd says, “I just don’t see how the agency is going to in any way hurt the driver’s privacy.”
With the personal-privacy safeguards specified in the mandate—and the advantages of a technology that is designed to preserve a sharp distinction between work time and off time—it seems likely that ELDs are a net positive in this regard.
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