A bid by owner-operators to cut off funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's electronic onboard recorder rule appears unlikely to pass. Close followers of the issue note that while it is not wise to say "never" in Washington, the cutoff faces stiff opposition in the Senate.
The amendment was attached to the House's bill appropriating 2013 money to the Department of Transportation.
Introduced by Rep. Jeffery Landry, R-La., it says that DOT cannot spend any money in Fiscal Year 2013 on GPS tracking, recording devices or event data recorders. It was co-sponsored by Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., and Tom Graves, R-Ga., and it passed the House by a voice vote.
It was sought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
"We'd like to thank the co-sponsors for their bipartisan opposition to the mandate," said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice-president in a statement.
But the Senate will prove to be a much tougher sell. That chamber has supported an eobr mandate three times in the past seven months.
Last December the Senate Commerce Committee reported out the safety title of the highway reauthorization bill, which included the mandate. In March the full Senate voted 74 - 22 for the mandate when it passed its version of the highway bill. Last month the Senate supported the mandate again when it approved the highway bill that President Obama signed last Friday.
Moreover, key Senate appropriators are strong supporters of the mandate. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who introduced the EOBR mandate back in 2010, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who chairs the Commerce subcommittee that drafted the legislation, both are members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"The Senate had such strong support for the highway bill and the eobr mandate," said Dave Kraft, director of industry affairs at Qualcomm Enterprise services. "I think for this year (the funding cut-off) is theater."
Never Say Never
American Trucking Associations, which supports the mandate and worked against the House amendment, does not expect the measure to survive but nonetheless takes it seriously.
"We will not take it for granted that the Senate will not accept the amendment," said Dave Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at ATA. "We are going to put some focus on it."
Osiecki believes that while the amendment is not likely to survive, if it does it will disrupt the ongoing EOBR rulemaking at FMCSA.
"We believe it would restrict FMCSA's ability to move forward on their current rule and any future rule, at least for fiscal year 2013. That's our understanding of its potential effect," he said.
The Senate's appropriations schedule is not clear, although the usual pattern for these bills is later rather than sooner.
An FMCSA spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.
7/6/2012 President Signs Highway Bill
6/29/2012 Agreement Sets New Course for Highway Program
5/8/2012 Industry and Safety Groups Press for Recorder Mandate