Federal Update
Shell game
A tactic by the U.S. House to expedite negotiations with the Senate could leave the door open to a universal EOBR mandate for trucks in the highway bill

A maneuver by the U.S. House of Representatives in April to pass a “shell” of a transportation bill that lacks a motor carrier safety title and other details could potentially leave the door open to a universal mandate for electronic on-board recorders.

OOIDA is watching the proceedings to make sure truckers’ interests are protected as the House used the shell bill to expedite negotiations with the Senate on the future of highway and transportation programs.

Passed on April 18, the House’s shell bill tees up a 90-day temporary extension for transportation programs to last through Sept. 30. The House used the bill as another avenue to push the controversial Keystone Pipeline project.

At press time, House leaders were hoping the shell bill would get them into conference with the Senate to negotiate a multiyear transportation program. Getting into conference is significant because the Senate has already passed a two-year transportation bill, S1813.

In addition to many other provisions in S1813 that the House must consider during negotiations is a universal mandate for EOBRs.

OOIDA opposes government-mandated EOBRs in trucks. The Association’s Washington, DC, staff is closely monitoring the developments.

“We are curious about the House leadership’s potential decision to pursue this path and we are anxious to hear more,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Laura O’Neill said.

“We have some concerns, not only because Chairman John Mica (of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) worked so hard on the initial bill known as HR7, but about how a 90-day extension with no motor carrier safety title will match up against a multiyear reauthorization bill in conference.”

Earlier in the year, House leadership failed to get enough votes for its five-year, $230 billion transportation bill known as HR7. Not even removing the Keystone Pipeline provisions from the base bill could garner enough votes for HR7 as a whole.

While OOIDA had various issues with both S1813 and HR7, they both offered reforms to speed up project delivery for infrastructure and reformed the way transportation money would be spent.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley said the current structure holds pots of money in separate accounts and forces states to meet criteria to get access to those funds.

“This program breaks down some of those walls,” Bowley said.

He adds that the proposed reforms would ensure road and bridge projects take priority over certain other types of discretionary projects.

As House and Senate lawmakers enter negotiations, truckers will be watching for provisions such as safe truck parking; cab crashworthiness standards; a study of detention time; standards for driver training and CDL licensing; a study of the impact of over-regulation on small-business truckers; reforms to deal with reincarnated and chameleon carriers; and reforms to the broker and freight-forwarding industries, including the bond amount.

Truckers remain against excessive tolling, highway privatization, and mandates for certain systems or costly equipment.

Even though HR7 never contained a provision on EOBRs, anything can happen during the negotiations.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer says truckers are ready to stand up against the mandate should it arise in the lawmakers’ conference.

“We’ve never seen any safety benefit whatsoever, and it’s inexcusable that anyone would consider mandating EOBRs now because no one has made any legitimate attempt to even show that there’s a safety benefit,” he says.

Spencer says the proponents of EOBRs are merely “seizing an opportunity” to use government to increase costs for their small-business competitors. EOBRs also present myriad other issues including privacy.

“This ill-advised effort by big business includes the very real possibility that owner-operators leased to carriers required to have EOBRs may very well be employees and not contractors at all,” Spencer adds.

“This is wrong on so many levels, and lawmakers need to hear that they have small-business professional driver constituents who are simply outraged.” LL