NY3: Electronic logging device requirement on large trucks reasonable under 4A

A federal interstate truck requirement of an electronic logging device on the truck, incorporated under New York statute, for GPS, speed, and an event recorder is reasonable as an administrative search under the Fourth Amendment. It tracks the truck, not people, although people ride in it. In re Owner Operator Indep. Drivers Ass’n v. New York State DOT, 2022 NY Slip Op 02166, 2022 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 2057 (3d Dept. Mar. 31, 2022):

Petitioners here do not challenge the existence of an administrative search exception to the warrant requirement, but argue as a threshold matter that the exception is inapplicable to the search of a person. However, the ELD rule does not require the placement of a tracking device on a driver’s person or any of his or her personal belongings; it requires installation of the ELD in the vehicle itself. Indeed, the Court of Appeals has explicitly recognized that the tracking of a vehicle and the tracking of its operator are not, for constitutional purposes, one in the same (see Matter of Cunningham v New York State Dept. of Labor, 21 NY3d 515, 521 [2013]). “People have a greater expectation of privacy in the location of their bodies, and the clothing and accessories that accompany their bodies, than in the location of their cars” (id.). We thus conclude that, so long as its criteria are met, the administrative search exception to the warrant requirement may properly be applied to the inspections authorized by the ELD rule. We now turn to whether those prerequisites have been satisfied here.

Petitioners have conceded that commercial trucking is a pervasively regulated industry, and there can be little dispute on that point. Federal regulation of commercial trucking extends back more than eight decades (see Pub L 255, &; 201, 49 Stat 543; Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., Inc. v United State Dept. of Transp., 840 F3d at 885, 894). The regulations applicable to commercial trucking are comprehensive, touching upon nearly every aspect of the industry. Federal regulations govern a wide range of topics, including the hours of service requirements at issue here (see 49 CFR part 395), driver qualifications (see 49 CFR part 391), mandated drug and alcohol testing (see 49 CFR part 382), preservation of records (see 49 CFR part 379), training requirements (see 49 CFR part 380), technical specifications of vehicles (see 49 CFR part 393), inspection, repair and maintenance of vehicles (see 49 CFR part 396), transportation of hazardous materials (see 49 CFR part 397), minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers (see 49 CFR part 387), and much more. Indeed, the meticulous oversight of this industry even extends to such things as the minimum thickness of foam mattresses installed in sleeper cabs (see 49 CFR 393.76 [e] [2] [iii]). As Supreme Court aptly observed, “one would be hard-pressed to find an industry more pervasively regulated than the trucking industry.” Thus, like the numerous federal and state courts that have considered the issue,[FN4] we too find that commercial trucking is a pervasively regulated industry pursuant to which an administrative search may be justified.

We further find that the regulatory scheme at issue here provides adequate assurances that the inspection of ELDs will be reasonable. “[T]he [s]tate has a vital and compelling interest in safety on the public highways” (People v Ingle, 36 NY2d 413, 419 [1975]; see People v Quackenbush, 88 NY2d at 542), and the ELD mandate serves to further that substantial government interest by ensuring compliance with hours of service requirements. The FMCSA has estimated that 755 fatalities and 19,705 injuries occur each year because of “drowsy, tired, or fatigued CMV drivers” (65 Fed Reg 25,540 [May 2, 2000]). The factual findings made by the FMCSA in connection with its rulemaking revealed that the prior system of documenting hours of service through paper records was inadequate due to the widespread and longstanding problem of falsification of such records (see 65 Fed Reg at 25,540, 25,558). During the public listening sessions held prior to enactment of the final rule, drivers stated that motor carriers sometimes pressured them to alter their paper records (see 80 Fed Reg 78,320, 78,323, 78,325 [Dec. 16, 2015]). The paper records are also vulnerable to human error (see 80 Fed Reg at 78,303). In our view, automatic recording and warrantless inspection of those records offer an eminently reasonable means of combatting this problem.

The ELD rule likewise provides the requisite “meaningful limitation” on the discretion of officials performing the inspection so as to ensure “that the search is limited in scope to that necessary to meet the interest that legitimized the search in the first place” (People v Quackenbush, 88 NY2d at 541-542; see People v Scott, 79 NY2d at 499-500). Both the type of information recorded by the ELD and the scope of a search permitted by the rule are narrow. ELDs record only limited data related to the location and movement of the vehicle and the identity and duty status of the driver. Even that data is not so granular as to allow an inspecting officer to pinpoint where a truck is or has been to within less than a half mile (see 49 CFR 395.26 [d] [2]; 49 CFR part 395, Appendix A, &; [c]). Significantly, the ELD rule provides specific protections for the privacy of the vehicle’s operator. When an operator selects the status of “authorized personal use,” the ELD does not record the CMV’s engine hours or mileage and the specificity of the vehicle’s location is reduced to within an approximately 10-mile radius (see 49 CFR 395.26 [d] [2]; 49 CFR part 395, Appendix A, &; 4.7.3).

Moreover, the rule confines the discretion of law enforcement by limiting the inspection to ELD data alone (see 49 CFR 395.24 [d]). Thus, an inspecting officer has no authority to search the driver or other areas of the vehicle “where personal effects would be expected to be contained and to which different and more stringent rules apply” (People v Quackenbush, 88 NY2d at 544 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]). The scope of the intrusion is also tailored [*6]to a determination of whether there has been compliance with hours of service requirements (see 49 USC &; 31137 [e] [3]). Finally, the ELD rule puts drivers and motor carriers on notice of the prospect of the inspection (see 49 CFR 395.22 [j]; 395.24 [d]). Thus, CMV operators are “informed in advance that the inspections to which he or she [may be] subject do not constitute discretionary acts by a government official but are conducted pursuant to [law]” (Matter of Murtaugh v New York State Dept. of Envtl. Conservation, 42 AD3d 986, 989 [2007], lv dismissed 9 NY3d 971 [2007]).

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