Appeals court dismisses OOIDA’s challenge of FMCSA’s driver fatigue policies

A three-judge panel in a D.C. federal Court of Appeals has dismissed a case brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association against FMCSA’s policies about enforcing driver fatigue, specifically a letter sent to the association by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro, who wrote out-of-service orders can be issued with “reasonable, articulable suspicion” about a driver’s fatigue level.

The court heard oral arguments Jan. 14, and OOIDA argued that the agency had previously authorized that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and its enforcement partners could only issue out-of-service orders when a driver had been on the road longer than federal safety regulations allow.

The driver advocacy group said that Ferro’s letter promulgated a legislative rule without notice and comment.

FMCSA argued — successfully — that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction on the issue, and the court ruled the portion of the letter in question “merely reiterated the undisputed fact that state enforcement officials can issue out-of-service orders in response to certain regulatory violations. FMCSA is therefore correct when it notes that ‘sometimes a letter is just a letter.'”