SPECIAL REPORT: EOBR fight 'far from settled'

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 6/28/2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012 – Hold on, Big Brother. If small-business trucking professionals have anything to say about it, you won’t be taking your $2 billion ride-along anytime soon. OOIDA and truckers are far from finished in their fight against a proposed mandate for electronic logging of hours and government surveillance of every truck.

The world of transportation was still abuzz one day after House and Senate lawmakers announced they’d reached an agreement to pass a two-year, $101 billion transportation authorization bill to fund highways and make policy on motor carrier safety.

The 600-page bill released Thursday morning directs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to issue a final rule one year after enactment that requires all trucks engaged in interstate commerce to be equipped with electronic on-board recorders, or EOBRs. According to the bill text, the devices must conform to a long list of stringent and unproven technical specs. An EOBR must also be able to identify a driver, which will require some sort of foolproof biometric identification.

OOIDA says EOBRs are no more effective than paper logs at improving industry compliance and highway safety. The Association says it’s time for Congress to do more about entry-level training for drivers than play catch-up with costly technological experiments.

“Proponents have pushed for EOBRs and other technology under the pretext of safety while at the same time opposing basic training standards. They want small businesses to spend billions on something that will never make up for the lack of training,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“That hypocrisy proves this is actually a way for large motor carrier companies to squeeze more ‘productivity’ out of drivers and increase costs for the small trucking companies they compete with.” 

Getting a government mandate for EOBRs off the ground has proven to be difficult for lawmakers and the FMCSA, especially after OOIDA’s successful court challenge of an earlier rulemaking because the FMCSA failed to deal with EOBRs as a possible harassment tool.

According to the highway bill, the FMCSA must ensure that an electronic logging device is not used to harass a vehicle operator. It also says the devices must be tamperproof and that the data be accessible to law enforcement.

A White House report last year said an EOBR mandate would cost the trucking industry about $2 billion to implement, another strong argument against a mandate.

Even with the highway bill progressing toward completion, truckers who oppose government-mandated EOBRs still have ways to halt that program.

Congress is considering a separate bill – known as a spending or “appropriations” bill – in the House Appropriations Committee. A group of lawmakers headed by U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-LA, and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV, have filed an amendment to that bill to strip funding from the attempted EOBR mandate.

OOIDA sent out a last-minute Call to Action on Thursday urging lawmakers to support the “Landry-Rahall amendment to the 2013 Transportation Appropriations Bill.”

According to staffers with some U.S. representatives, the calls were pouring in at midday in support of the amendment.

Copyright © OOIDA