Tuesday, January 19, 2010

US Truckers Sue Department Of Transport Over Drivers Records

Federal Authority must respond to Court Action
Shipping News Feature

US – When you rely on the goodwill of a Government department in the everyday course of your business filing a lawsuit against them is akin to poking a bear with a stick. When you’ve waited over fifteen years for clarification of a fairly simple matter, like what a haulage company should retain to evidence a truck drivers hours, for example, then even a Saint’s patience might expire.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) have finally taken action to compel the US Department of Transport to fulfil their promise, made in 1994, to properly define what constitutes supporting documents after Congress issued a directive that the rules should be clearly laid out by 1996.

Since the original Congressional ruling the Department has apparently adopted informal guidelines which seem to encompass every conceivable type of document which they insist should be retained by the haulier. The ATA have identified 34 differing categories which require the trucker to retain these disparate pieces of evidence.

“In order to comply, trucking companies need to know what the rules are,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA Senior Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs. “In the case of supporting documentation for hours-of-service, the requirements have never been established by regulation”.

The use of tachographs would probably eliminate the problem completely but there appears to be an inbuilt resistance to imposing electronic data recorders on their rigs, much as was experienced throughout the UK when they became mandatory. British truckers now generally feel that the devices can work in their favour by preventing employers imposing impossible targets for their drivers but this does not appear to be the case in the States.

The Department of Transport are now subject to a mandamus action which means the Court is liable to force them to comply with their legal duty as laid down by Congress. It is extremely likely that the action taken by the ATA will prompt the authorities to finally focus on the issue and resolve the matter.