IJ Calls on DOT to Back Off Proposal to Monitor Truck Drivers

Dan King
Dan King · November 22, 2022

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) submitted a public comment opposing a proposed Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that would require all commercial motor vehicles to be equipped with electronic tracking devices.  

Commercial truckers are already subject to a host of government monitoring requirements, with the result that, as the New York Times reported in March, “long-haul truckers are some of the most closely monitored workers in the world.” Now, the agency is considering mandating that truckers install devices that would allow federal and state officials to track commercial vehicles at all times—a proposal that has garnered significant opposition in the trucking community. 

IJ’s letter argues that allowing law enforcement to track movements and specific identifiable information without a warrant would violate the Fourth Amendment.  

“This type of warrantless tracking is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment,” said IJ Attorney Jared McClain. “If the government wants to monitor someone’s every move, they need to get a warrant based on probable cause. Truckers don’t lose their constitutional rights simply because they operate in a regulated industry.” 

It’s currently unclear exactly what kind of data and information the tracking devices will transmit, raising further concerns about the privacy rights of truck owners and operators. 

The rule was proposed in September by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency within the DOT, with the alleged goal of preventing car accidents by identifying “higher risk” vehicles on the road. However, IJ’s letter argues that warrantless monitoring of vehicles’ geolocation is not necessary to help prevent accidents and that DOT cannot disregard the Fourth Amendment just because having more data might make its job easier in some way.   

“Truck drivers are already operating under an almost Orwellian degree of government monitoring and scrutiny,” said IJ Senior Attorney Rob Johnson. “Some of those requirements are necessary, but there has to be a limit to what the constitution allows. If DOT carries through with its proposals, we may find out where that limit is found.”  

As part of its Project on the Fourth Amendment, IJ has stood up for the privacy rights of Americans all over the country. IJ recently defeated a law in Ohio that allowed for warrantless inspections of taxidermy shops, sued on behalf of a small business owner who had his mail seized for no reason without a warrant, and previously represented Chicago food truck owners who were forced to install GPS tracking devices on their trucks.