ATA Salutes Highway Bill, EOBR Debate Continues

WASHINGTON — The American Trucking Associations (ATA) praised members of the House and Senate for passing the much discussed Highway Transportation Bill yesterday.

“This legislation, while not all we could have hoped for as an industry and as users of the highway system, makes tremendous strides in the safety arena and puts down a marker for future improvements to our nation’s freight infrastructure,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves.

The EOBR Debate

Graves pointed to a handful of initiatives in the bill that the ATA has been pushing for, particularly the hotly debated issue of mandating electronic logging devices to record drivers’ compliance with hours of service limits.

On that note, OOIDA executive vice-president Todd Spencer said the issue is far from settled. “The EOBR proposal doesn’t just have a few warts, it’s riddled with tumors, rendering it totally ineffective at improving safety.”

Land Line Magazine — the magazine for OOIDA members — reported that the bill text requires that EOBRs conform “to a long list of stringent and unproven technical specs.”

The Land Line report also noted that “Congress is considering a separate bill – known as a spending or “appropriations” bill – in the House Appropriations Committee.” According to Land Line, a group of lawmakers “have filed an amendment to that bill to strip funding from the attempted EOBR mandate.”

“Despite misinformation from a vocal minority, the conferees have set our industry on the path to even greater improvements in safety by requiring the Department of Transportation to mandate that truck drivers use electronic devices to record their compliance with the hours of service requirements,” Graves said. “This is a tremendous leap forward for trucking, which will bring our compliance systems into the 21st Century, leveling the playing field for our industry and lead to even fewer crashes on our nation’s highways.”

Time will tell what shape the EOBR initiative takes.

Drug Testing, Crash Tests, Restart Provisions, and the One Shortfall

Graves also pointed to the creation of a clearinghouse to track drug and alcohol test results, a study of crashworthiness standards for large trucks, the establishment of standards for systems to provide employers with timely notifications of drivers’ moving violations, and mandatory testing of new carriers entering the industry to verify their knowledge of safety requirements.

“In addition to the ELD requirement, the bill also requires DOT to conduct a field study of pending changes to the restart provisions in the hours-of-service regulations,” Graves said. “ATA has pressed DOT to follow through on the recommendations of their own researchers to confirm their finding in a ‘real-world’ field study before implementing the pending changes. Logically, DOT should confirm the efficacy of the planned changes in the real world, before making the new provisions effective.”

The Highway Bill also lays a foundation for improvements in freight transportation, minus any increases in funding to address the growing needs of industry, said the ATA.

“ATA has long supported increasing user fees, specifically the diesel tax, to fund overdue repair and expansion of our highway system,” said ATA Chairman Dan England. “While this bill does not do that, it does make impressive reforms to the planning process which will reduce costs and speed construction projects, including making freight transportation a greater priority, along with providing certain enticements for states to fund freight projects. It is our sincere hope that as these reforms take effect, Congress quickly gets back to drafting legislation that provides the adequate funding we need to maintain and grow our infrastructure network and dedicates funds to the movement of freight.”

The one shortfall for the ATA was in the area of “truck productivity.”

“While there is much to like about this bill, ATA is extremely disappointed that Congress has once again kicked the can down the road with respect to truck productivity,” Graves said. “By giving into fear-based misinformation, this bill delays the deployment of some of our industry’s safest, most fuel efficient trucks. We fully expect this latest study to confirm what numerous other studies have already told us: modest increases in truck size and weight limits have a net positive effect on highway safety and maintenance.”

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