656 F.3d 580 (7th Cir. 2011), 10-2340, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Ass'n, Inc. v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin.
|Citation:||656 F.3d 580|
|Opinion Judge:||WOOD, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||OWNER-OPERATOR INDEPENDENT DRIVERS ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Petitioners, v. FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION, Respondent.|
|Attorney:||Paul D. Cullen, Sr. (argued), Attorney, Cullen Law Firm, Washington, DC, for Petitioners. Joshua P. Waldman (argued), Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent.|
|Judge Panel:||Before ROVNER and WOOD, Circuit Judges, and GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.[*]|
|Case Date:||August 26, 2011|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit|
Argued Feb. 7, 2011.
Three commercial truck drivers and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have petitioned for review of a final rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA or Agency) about the use of electronic monitoring devices in commercial trucks. Electronic On-Board Recorders for Hours-of-Service Compliance, 75 Fed. Reg. 17,208 (Apr. 5, 2010). Though the briefing raises a litany of issues that would make for a difficult and exhaustive Administrative Law final exam, in the end we find that we can dispose of the petition on a narrow basis. We conclude that the rule cannot stand because the Agency failed to consider an issue that it was statutorily required to address. Specifically, the Agency said nothing about the requirement that any regulation about the use of monitoring devices in commercial vehicles must " ensure that the devices are not used to harass vehicle operators." 49 U.S.C. § 31137(a). We therefore grant the petition and vacate the rule.
Federal regulators have long limited the number of hours during which commercial truck drivers may operate their vehicles in a given day and over the course of a week. Between 1940 and 2003, the permissible " hours of service" (HOS) went largely unchanged for most drivers. The basic idea has remained constant: to protect driver health and to ensure highway safety by reducing driver fatigue and thus fatigue-related accidents. To keep track of a trucker's time on the road and, to the extent possible, his time spent sleeping, the regulations require a driver to document four statuses: (1) driving; (2) on duty, not driving ( e.g., sitting at a loading dock or filling up the gas tank); (3) in the sleeper-berth (a small compartment in the cab of the truck with a bed); and (4) off duty. 49 C.F.R. § 395.8(b) (2010). The regulations set out daily limits for time spent either driving or otherwise on duty, and they establish a daily minimum for consecutive hours off duty. That minimum is subject to an exception for time spent in the sleeper-berth. This allows drivers to split their off-duty hours into two parts if they rest in the truck. The regulations also cap the total hours a driver may spend on duty in a given week (which can be measured in either seven- or eight-day units depending on the carrier).
Traditionally, drivers have recorded their hours in paper logbooks (referred to a driver's " record of duty status," id. at § 395.8) to demonstrate compliance with the HOS regulations. Individual drivers must keep copies of their records-of-duty status for seven days. They then submit the records to their motor carrier, which must retain them for six months. Id. at § 395.8(k). As one might imagine, this paper-based system is not free from problems of manipulation and falsification, and those problems have long been a subject of concern.
In 2003, the FMCSA issued a final rule that substantially, and controversially, changed the HOS numbers and how they would be measured. Hours of Service of Drivers; Driver Rest and Sleep for Safe Operations, 68 Fed. Reg. 22,456 (Apr. 28, 2003). The 2003 rule increased the daily driving limit, reduced the daily on-duty limit, increased the daily off-duty requirement, retained the sleeper-berth exception, and created a 34-hour restart rule as a new exception to the weekly on-duty cap. See id. at 22,457, 501-02. Following a petition for review, however, the D.C. Circuit held that the 2003 revised rule was arbitrary and capricious because the " agency failed to consider the impact of the rules on the health of drivers, a factor the agency must consider under its organic
statute." Public Citizen v. FMCSA, 374 F.3d 1209, 1216 (D.C.Cir.2004).
Although the court's decision ordinarily would have required vacatur of the rule, Congress overrode that consequence in legislation that granted the Agency temporary relief and kept the 2003 rulemaking in effect until the earlier of either a new rule from the Agency or one year. Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004, Part V, Pub. L. 108-310, § 7(f), 118 Stat. 1144, 1154. The Agency went back to the drawing board, but it ultimately made only one small change to the rule. In 2005 it issued a final rule with the revised HOS regulations. Hours of Service of Drivers, 70 Fed. Reg. 49978 (Aug. 25, 2005). Again, the new HOS rule did not survive judicial review in one piece. This time, the Agency erred because (1) it failed to allow meaningful comment on the driver-fatigue model it used to justify increasing the daily driving limit and in creating the 34-hour restart provision, and (2) it failed adequately to explain its reasons for adopting this model, which figured heavily in the Agency's cost-benefit analysis. These two flaws, the D.C. Circuit concluded, were serious enough to require more changes to the rule. OOIDA v. FMCSA, 494 F.3d 188, 199-206 (D.C.Cir.2007).
Nestled within the Agency's larger consideration of the HOS rules is the more narrow, but still controversial, regulatory issue before us. In the notice of proposed rulemaking for the 2003 rule, the Agency considered requiring truckers to use electronic on-board records (EOBRs) instead of logbooks for documenting their records of duty status. The Agency defines an EOBR as " an electronic device that is capable of recording a driver's hours of service and duty status accurately and automatically." 49 C.F.R. § 395.2 (2011). An EOBR must be " integrally synchronized" with a truck's engine, id.; this allows the device to be linked simultaneously with both the engine and the driver's telephone so that contemporaneous updates can be sent either through cellular technology or via satellite to a remote server. To meet the Agency's performance requirements, the amount of data an adequate EOBR must be capable of recording is extensive: the truck's registration number, the date and time, the location of the truck, the distance traveled, the hours in each duty status for a 24-hour period, the motor carrier's name and Department of Transportation number, the weekly basis used by the motor carrier (either seven or eight days) to calculate cumulative driving time, and even the document numbers or name of the shipper and goods being shipped. Id.; 49 C.F.R. § 395.16 (2010). At a less technical level, an EOBR is essentially a device implanted into a truck that records significant amounts of data about the truck's location, how it is being used, how it has been used over time, and that uses satellite technology to allow nearly instant electronic transmission of this data to the trucker's employer (that is, the motor carrier).
During the 2003 rulemaking procedure, the Agency...
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