If you thought that, after many long, confusing years, some clarity was finally beginning to form over the Electronic On Board Recorder rule, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. A Federal Court of Appeals has rejected a 2010 FMCSA rule requiring that truckers with a problematic history of hours-of-service violations be forced to use an EOBR. That rule had been scheduled to go into effect in 2012 but was rejected on grounds that it does not protect against harassment of individual truck drivers.

According to the court’s ruling: “The agency needs to consider what types of harassment already exist, how frequently and to what extent harassment happens, and how an electronic device capable of contemporaneous transmission of information to a motor carrier will guard against (or fail to guard against) harassment.”

In an interesting note, the court also stated that it was likely to find other issues with the rule in the future. This essentially mean that the entire rule has to be thrown out, the rulemaking process, including research, has to begin again and a new rule written. That process could take 18-24 months. Given the court’s statement that other issues will be challenged, it is likely that it will be a very long time before we see a final rule in place.

Also delayed for a long time will be the FMCSA’s plan to move all hours-of-service over to electronic means. This ruling had been considered by many in the industry, as a ‘gateway’ to EOBRs being required for all. With the rulemaking process the way it is, the best case scenario for that plan is 3 years (an 18 month process for this rule plus an 18 month process for the EOBRs for all rule). Given the controversial nature of this and all hours-of-service rules, it is highly unlikely that that would be the case. In reality, we are looking towards the end of the decade, at best, before this rule is settled.