Facing “Discrimination” Lawsuit, FMCSA Issues “Denial” Of ELD Exemption Request
Washington D.C. – On Tuesday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it had finally issued its decision regarding an electronic logging devices (ELD) exemption application filed by the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) last year.
As most observers expected, the FMCSA denied the SBTC’s ELD exemption request, writing,
(FMCSA) cannot ensure that granting for the requested exemption would achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption.
The exemption application at issue was submitted by the SBTC on February 1, 2018, after the FMCSA required the group to amend its earlier submission of the same application from November 20, 2017.
In it, the SBTC requested a permanent exemption from the ELD mandate for independent contractors and small carriers with less than 50 employees.
The ELD rule is not a ‘safety regulation’ per se as the FMCSA has concluded. Rather it is a mechanism intended to enforce a safety regulation by regulating the manner in which a driver records and communicates his compliance.
Further, SBTC contended,
Therefore, it is our position that this rule does not itself impact safety, and that the level of safety will not change based on whether or not our exemption application is approved. That would require a change to the hours-of-service rules.”
In its denial, FMCSA said SBTC’s application for exemption “does not meet the regulatory standards for an exemption.”
The agency sought to support its claim by asserting the following:
1. SBTC failed to provide “the name of the individual or motor carrier that would be responsible for the use or operation of CMVs” under the exemption.
2. SBTC did not provide the name of a single motor carrier.
3. SBTC failed to “provide an estimate of the total number of drivers and CMVs that would be operated under the terms and conditions of the exemption”
4. SBTC failed to “explain how you would ensure that you could achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained by complying with the regulation”
However, in its application, SBTC argued, “we believe the level of safety is already assured by the pre-existing Hours of Service rule as opposed to this ELD enforcement mechanism rule.”
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SBTC Files Lawsuit Alleging FMCSA Violated Federal Law In Its Handling Of ELD Exemption Request
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) first reported SBTC filed a lawsuit against the FMCSA in U.S. District Court on May 6, 2019 alleging it was “intentionally discriminating” against the 15,000-member group.
In the complaint, SBTC argues the FMCSA’s handling of its ELD exemption request is in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) which states:
The Secretary shall grant or deny an exemption request after a thorough review of its safety implications, but in no case later than 180 days after the filing of such request.
At the time the suit was filed, the agency had delayed in issuing its decision on the ELD exemption request for almost 11 months, which far exceeds the federally required 180-day period.
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Further, the suit contends the APA requires the FMCSA to publish the application into the Federal Register “upon receipt.”
SBTC filed the request on February 1, 2018, but the agency did not publish the ELD exemption application until June 5, 2018.
SBTC President James Lamb told TNN in an exclusive interview the suit is attempting to “regulate the regulators.”
“The point of this lawsuit is to remind the FMCSA the industry is not going to tolerate them acting as if they are above the law,” Lamb said.
“They are discriminating against certain trade groups which is arbitrary and capricious behavior.”
It is not yet clear how FMCSA’s newly issued denial will impact the suit, but in an exclusive interview with TNN on Wednesday, Lamb made it clear that SBTC intends to keep fighting.
“We will not stand idly by as FMCSA tramples over the First Amendment. Our members’ rights will not be infringed upon with impunity,” Lamb declared.
TNN reached out to the FMCSA for comment about the lawsuit, but agency policy does not allow for comments about ongoing litigation.
TNN will continue to bring you the latest developments on this case.
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READ SBTC’s scathing rebuttal to FMCSA HERE.
READ more of what SBTC’s lawsuit alleges HERE.
Get more recent FMCSA news HERE.