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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
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Rule for electronic tracking of commercial truckers upheld in NY

The state's highest court sidelined privacy and constitutional concerns by trucking associations, pointing to the law's tailoring and the industry's already heavy regulation.

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — Commercial truckers have no basis for privacy complaints against a New York rule requiring electronic logging devices, the state’s high court ruled Tuesday.

Ruling unanimously, the Court of Appeals found the law perfectly constitutional because it comes after a long history of state and federal laws targeting safety concerns for the highly regulated industry.

“We should that the warrantless inspections authorized by the regulations fall within the administrative search exception to the warrant requirement and do not constitute unreasonable searches and seizures,” Judge Shirley Troutman wrote in the 19-page opinion.

At the federal level, interstate trucking companies have been required since 2017 to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) on commercial vehicles to see just how long the drivers go without rest on the road, as well as for when they use their vehicles for personal errands.

The devices were intended to prevent drivers from spending more than 11 hours on the road in a 14-hour window, amid evidence that the prior system of manual logs allowed room for forgery or abuse.

New York's Department of Transportation adopted the federal rule in 2019, and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association quickly filed suit, one of several it has brought in various jurisdictions, saying the new requirement represented an unconstitutional search and that New York had improperly enforced the federal law.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the drivers association, said Tuesday.

Last month during oral arguments in Albany, the state’s high court seemed to side with regulators. Troutman in particular asked an attorney for the association whether truckers should expect such an intrusive requirement given how highly regulated the industry has become.

The court's ruling goes on to cite the “long tradition” of comprehensive trucking regulation in both the state and federal levels, stating that commercial truck drivers “have a diminished expectation of privacy in the location of their vehicles.”

Troutman also noted that any warrantless inspections of trucks the occur because of the new rule cannot be considered overly invasive, since police officers can obtain the data electronically without actually entering the trucks. Such searches would also be limited to hours of service. Further, Troutman wrote that an ELD “impedes cheating” and is far better than paper records, which can be easily falsified to avoid hours-of-service limitations.

Nearly 40 states require tracking information on truckers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 755 fatalities and nearly 20,000 injuries occur every year due to drowsy or fatigued truckers. Federal studies have said the new rule could prevent more than 1,800 crashes a year.

Some trucking trade groups claim, however, that the ELD requirements actually make road safety worse, saying drivers should be able to extend their ride by 15 minutes to reach a safer place to park.

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Categories / Appeals, Business, Law, Regional

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