July 9, 2012 2:30 AM, EDT

House Moves to Block Funding for Implementing EOBR Rule

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the July 9 print edition of Transport Topics.

The House approved a bill on June 29 that would block any federal mandate requiring the use of electronic onboard recorders on vehicles, including a regulation included in the highway funding legislation President Obama was expected to sign late last week.

The measure, from Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), was included as an amendment to an appropriations bill that would fund transportation and housing programs in fiscal year 2013. It would prohibit the Department of Transportation from using funding to develop an EOBR mandate or any other requirements that vehicles use tracking devices.

“The Department of Transportation has become obsessed with electronically monitoring vehicle movements,” Landry said in a June 27 speech proposing the amendment.

Landry told his colleagues that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently developing an EOBR mandate.

“Even the name sounds scary,” he said. “This regulation is so costly that even President Obama has singled it out as a regulation which needs more studying. He did so because it is estimated that the mandate will cost the trucking industry at least a billion dollars to implement.”

“The truckers in my district cannot afford this cost,” Landry said.

FMCSA did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation.

Shortly after voting on the appropriations bill, representatives approved highway funding legislation that had come from conference negotiations between the Senate and House. It directs DOT to write an EOBR man-date within a year after the law is signed, to take effect two years later. The president planned to sign the bill July 6 (see story, p. 1).

Landry’s EOBR provision faces an uphill battle. A House-Senate conference is likely because a bill the Senate Appropriations Committee passed in April lacks the EOBR language.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees transportation, opposes Landry’s amendment, and the Senate bill includes nonbinding instructions to DOT to develop an EOBR mandate, her spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association praised the passage of the Landry amendment.

“We’d like to thank the co-sponsors for their bipartisan opposition to the [EOBR] mandate,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said in a statement. “The association and its members see no reason for the costly government surveillance that such a mandate would entail.”

However, American Trucking Associations accused the House of using a backdoor method to cripple the measure.

“Though opponents of honest, fair and efficient enforcement of important safety rules have used this back door to thwart the will of Congress, we fully expect that the language of the conference report — agreed to by House and Senate leaders of both parties — will be the final word on the use of electronic logs and that DOT will quickly move to require this important safety technology on all trucks,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a statement.

ATA is confident that the anti-EOBR language will not be in the final Senate bill or the conference bill that would be written if the Senate and House language differs, spokesman Sean McNally said.

Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, blamed OOIDA’s lobbying for the amendment. “It was really disheartening to see OOIDA be so effective at getting some misinformation out there early,” he said.

“And unless the Senate would concur on it, it’s a puff of smoke,” Kidd said. “Nothing will happen.”

During debate on the measure, Landry told his colleagues he had bipartisan support, including support from Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That committee did not return a request to confirm Landry’s statement.

However, Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.), the top Democrat in the House’s transportation appropriations subcommittee, opposes the amendment, his spokeswoman said, declining to comment further.

Landry’s spokesman cited support from Americans for Tax Reform, which referenced the EOBR mandate’s estimated $1.1 billion cost to the trucking industry in a recent white paper, in which it encouraged lawmakers to support the amendment.