OOIDA urges Congress to dump costly EOBR mandate

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

With the House and Senate taking steps this week toward negotiating a final version of a multiyear surface transportation bill, OOIDA is urging lawmakers to strike a costly government mandate for EOBRs from the legislation.

The Association is calling on its members to call their lawmakers, a strategy that helped get language on longer and heavier trucks struck from the House version of the bill back in February.

“When big-business interests made their push to get longer and heavier trucks in the highway bill, our members pushed back with a big enough force to defeat it,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“Now, with similar interests pushing to get an EOBR mandate in the bill, it’s time to push back again. Truckers need to contact their lawmakers and tell them that we don’t want a government mandate for EOBRs in this highway bill.”

According to a White House report requested by Republican leadership last summer, a mandate for electronic on-board recorders ranks in the top seven most costly regulatory actions in the administration’s pipeline – at a whopping $2 billion. That’s twice the cost of recent changes to the hours-of-service regulation, which also made the list of most costly regs.

OOIDA questions the need for truckers to spend money on an unproven technology that is no more effective than paper logs when it comes to safety and hours-of-service compliance.

“The device only tracks when the wheels are moving, not taking into consideration the colossal waiting times spent by truck drivers at shipping docks,” Spencer said. “Plus, we hear every day from truckers whose companies use the devices to improve ‘productivity,’ which actually means harassing truckers into driving more hours.”

OOIDA has legitimate concerns about driver harassment and EOBRs, and a federal court ruled in favor of the Association last year on that issue. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruling from Aug. 26, 2011, forced the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to vacate its initial EOBR rule because the agency failed to deal with the harassment issue.

Despite being forced to vacate its initial rule, the FMCSA continues to pursue a separate, industry-wide mandate for EOBRs. The regulatory push, plus the EOBR provision in Senate bill, gives truckers plenty to push back against.

On Tuesday, April 24, Senate leaders announced their team of negotiators for the bill consisting of eight Democrats and six Republicans.

The Senate team consists of Democrats Barbara Boxer of California, Max Baucus of Montana, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Charles Schumer of New York, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma, David Vitter of Louisiana, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

OOIDA wrote to those lawmakers on Wednesday, April 25, and will send a similar letter to House negotiators once they are named. The House considered legislation Wednesday afternoon to advance the process to conference.

“Section 32301 of S. 1813 legislatively mandates this burdensome regulatory effort under the guise of monitoring hours of service compliance despite the fact that the costly hours of service change is still being heavily disputed,” Spencer wrote in the letter.

“To require such a mandate before the rule is even settled is putting the cart way before the horse to say the least, particularly absent any research to indicate that EOBRs will improve upon compliance as a whole.”

In addition to the pushback against the legislative provision, truckers should also take the opportunity to comment on the FMCSA’s attempt to reconcile the issue of driver harassment in the regs. Click here for more information on that proposal and instructions on how to comment.

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