Responding to the decision handed down by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in August 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has formally rescinded its final rule published on April 5, 2010, requiring electronic onboard recorders for carriers with significant hours-of-service compliance issues.

“This final rule rescinds the final rule published on April 5, 2010, entitled ‘Electronic On-Board Recorders for Hours-of-Service Compliance’ and amended by a September 13, 2010, technical amendment. This action responds to a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that vacated the April 2010 final rule,” FMCSA wrote in the formal notice published in today’s Federal Register.

The rule in question, which would have gone into effect June 1, 2012, would have required carriers with 10% or greater hours-of-service (HOS) violations during a single compliance review. But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) filed a petition with the court to stop the final rule, arguing that EOBR devices could be used by carriers to harass drivers. The court agreed, leaving FMCSA with little choice but to rescind the rule.

“The court found that FMCSA’s failure to address the issue of harassment as part of the rulemaking—a factor the agency was required to address under 49 U.S.C. 31137(a)—rendered the rulemaking arbitrary and capricious. Although the court’s opinion focused on the remedial directive for carriers that demonstrated noncompliance with hours of service rules, the court vacated the entire rule,” FMCSA noted in this morning’s publication

The issue of required EOBRs is not dead, though, as there are efforts to include the requirement in the transportation bill that the House and Senate conference is trying to work out right now. The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) and OOIDA both sent letters to congressmen stating their opinions on the matter.

“The National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly recommended to the DOT that all trucks and buses be equipped with [electronic logs] as an effective strategy to improve the accuracy of carrier [hours-of-service] records,” ATA’s letter stated. “In fact, in 2010-2011, the NTSB included this recommendation on the agency’s ‘Most Wanted List’ of transportation safety improvements.”

The letter supporting EOBRs was signed by representatives of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Truck Safety Coalition, in addition to ATA.

The groups also urged the House-Senate conferees to dismiss claims by opponents of an electronic logging mandate that the devices would impose a costly regulatory burden on the trucking industry saying they “believe the cost of [electronic logging devices] is being overstated by at least one organization opposed to [a mandate].”

Meanwhile, OOIDA sent a letter to the Senate conferees contending that EOBRs are an unproven technology, providing no cost benefit or highway safety improvement.

“Despite being previously struck down by a federal court, a costly and unnecessary mandate has been included in the U.S. Senate’s highway surface transportation funding legislation. U.S. truckers see it as the last thing a struggling trucking industry needs right now and want to see it removed from the bill,” OOIDA wrote.