ATA and OOIDA square off over EOBR in transportation bill

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) have squared off on the issue of mandatory onboard electronic recorders in letter-writing campaigns to members of the House and Senate currently negotiating the transportation bill.

In the letter, ATA  — along with several other industry and advocacy groups — urged the retention of the Senate’s proposed mandate for electronic onboard recorders.

“The National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly recommended to the DOT that all trucks and buses be equipped with [electronic logs] as an effective strategy to improve the accuracy of carrier [hours-of-service] records,” ATA’s letter stated. “In fact, in 2010-2011, the NTSB included this recommendation on the agency’s ‘Most Wanted List’ of transportation safety improvements.”

Meanwhile, OOIDA sent a letter to the Senate conferees contending that EOBRs are an unproven technology, providing no cost benefit or highway safety improvement.

“Despite being previously struck down by a federal court, a costly and unnecessary mandate has been included in the U.S. Senate’s highway surface transportation funding legislation. U.S. truckers see it as the last thing a struggling trucking industry needs right now and want to see it removed from the bill,” OOIDA stated.

A House-Senate conference begins today to try and hash out the details of a bill.

The letter supporting EOBRs was signed by representatives of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Truck Safety Coalition, in addition to ATA.

The groups also urged the House-Senate conferees to dismiss claims by opponents of an electronic logging mandate that the devices would impose a costly regulatory burden on the trucking industry saying they “believe the cost of [electronic logging devices] is being overstated by at least one organization opposed to [a mandate].”

The organization the ATA letter refers to is clearly OOIDA, that contends that “the current EOBR rulemaking has been estimated by the Obama administration to cost the industry $2 billion if enacted.  In response to a request made by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to disclose all rulemakings in excess of $1 billion, Obama listed the current EOBR rulemaking as one of the seven most expensive regulations pursued by the administration.”

“It’s exorbitantly expensive while providing no safety benefit whatsoever,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “This is being done under the guise of compliance with federal hours-of-service regulations, but it 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,” said Spencer.

“It is more than twice the cost of hours-of-service regulations, which by the way are still in flux and not truly finalized. Yet the FMCSA presses on, seeking additional authority from Congress for yet another mandate,” said Spencer.

Contending that the costs of the regulation are overstated, the ATA letter states: “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has estimated the annualized cost to be between $525 and $785 per truck over a 10-year period. This is a reasonable cost to help improve compliance with and enforcement of important truck safety rules,” the ATA letter said.

“ATA believes that this technology can be beneficial to our industry by encouraging compliance with the hours-of-service rules,” Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO said. “That increased compliance translates into safer highways not just for the thousands of professional truck drivers on the road each day, but for every American who travels our highways.”

OOIDA’s Spenser counters: “EOBRs are no more reliable than paper log books for tracking hours of service. The device only tracks when the wheels are moving, not taking into consideration the colossal waiting times spent by truck drivers at shipping docks. Plus, we hear every day from truckers whose companies use the devices to harass truckers into driving more hours.”

“A regulatory version of an EOBR mandate was struck down by a federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit because the FMCSA failed to deal with the harassment of drivers. Noted in that ruling was the fact that no research has shown how such a mandate would do anything to improve highway safety,” OOIDA states.

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