ELDs Violate Privacy Protections Under New York State Constitution, Argues OOIDA and Three Individual Truckers in Court

In February, attorneys for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. (OOIDA) and three of its operator members recently argued to a 5-justice panel of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, that ELDs violate operators’ privacy rights protected by the New York State Constitution. In OOIDA et al. v. NY State Dep’t of Transportation et al., the truckers explained that the New York Constitution provides greater privacy protections than those afforded by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As a result, the state can’t track operators’ HOS compliance with ELDs unless it first gets a warrant or enacts procedures that protect drivers’ privacy.

Privacy in New York

New York’s highest appellate court, the Court of Appeals, has explained on several occasions that Article 1, Section 12 of the New York Constitution goes beyond the Fourth Amendment when it comes to protecting against government intrusions on individuals’ privacy. And the Court of Appeals has left no doubt that, in the areas of (1) GPS tracking and (2) warrantless regulatory inspections, New York stands above the federal government. As ELDs enable the government to use warrantless GPS tracking to keep tabs on drivers’ conduct, the New York Constitution’s substantial privacy protections weigh heavily on the legality of ELDs in New York.

OOIDA’s New York ELD Challenge

OOIDA has challenged New York’s adoption of the ELD mandate into state law. As in other states, New York state roadside inspectors are only legally authorized to enforce New York law, not federal law. OOIDA based its claims primarily on the substantial privacy protections afforded by the New York state constitution—specifically Article 1, Section 12—noting that the state must adopt procedures (or secure warrants) to protect operators’ privacy before using GPS to monitor their hours of service. OOIDA made clear to the court that commercial trucks are much more than a mere business premises, and HOS monitoring is much more invasive than typical regulatory requirements. Indeed, trucks frequently serve as a trucker’s home away from home, and HOS rules are specifically designed to monitor a driver’s activity and physical condition.

These features of the trucking industry and ELDs mean that ELD monitoring cannot be completed without a warrant as is the case in typical administrative inspection schemes. But the trial court rejected OOIDA’s claims and granted the government’s motion to dismiss. The court accepted DOT’s argument that the state doesn’t need a warrant to use GPS to track drivers’ hours of service because interstate trucking is a pervasively-regulated industry, and the ELD rules sufficiently protect drivers’ privacy interests.

OOIDA continued to advance truckers’ privacy interests on appeal, stressing that the demands of interstate trucking require truckers to give up time away from home and families and converts truckers’ “business premises” into homes and personal vehicles.

Following the argument, the case has been submitted and is awaiting a decision from the panel of the Appellate Division.

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