OOIDA calls on DOT to repeal ‘unnecessary’ regulations

June 7, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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In response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s regulatory review, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted comments on such topics as fuel efficiency standards, driver training, broker transparency, electronic logging devices, and speed limiters.

OOIDA submitted the formal comments to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Friday, June 4. The Association reminded Buttigieg that small-business truckers “are the safest and most diverse operators on the road” and asked the DOT to shed regulations that place an unnecessary burden on truckers.

“As part of this regulatory review, we encourage the Department of Transportation to remove excessive burdens and look for less intrusive alternatives that can enhance highway safety and improve working conditions for small trucking businesses that comprise 96% of the industry,” OOIDA wrote in comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. “If this can be done, we believe the administration’s efforts will help drive economic growth across the country, creating new opportunities and better job security for millions of hard-working Americans.”

OOIDA recommended the amendment, elimination or withdrawal of several rules and proposals.

Fuel efficiency standards

In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued its Phase 2 final rule on greenhouse gas emission and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles.

The standards, which started with the 2018 model year, were estimated to reduce fuel consumption in diesel engines by 24%. However, OOIDA said the regulation focused on how the rule would affect truck manufacturers without considering what it would mean for those buying the trucks.

“OOIDA is concerned that the agencies did not accurately estimate the costs and benefits of the rulemaking, nor did they adequately consider the excessive burden that will be placed upon small-business owners and professional truck drivers from expensive, untested, and – in some cases – unproven technologies,” Spencer wrote. “Whereas, the agencies are content with the uncertainty of costs and effectiveness of the technologies, owner-operators do not have that luxury.”

The Association emphasized that once a proven and effective technology that reduces fuel consumption by 24% hits the market, truckers will line up to buy it.

“OOIDA strongly believes that the market should drive fuel efficient technologies instead of expensive mandates,” Spencer wrote.

“If there was affordable and reliable technology which improved fuel efficiency by 24% over the 2017 baseline, there would be no need for a mandate as truck drivers would be more than willing to purchase better equipment.”

The Phase 2 rule also placed a manufacturing cap on glider kits, which are a group of new, assembled truck or tractor parts that typically include a chassis frame, front axle, cab and brakes. The truck buyer combines a remanufactured engine and transmission with the newer parts in the glider kit to produce a fully operational vehicle.

OOIDA said glider kits served as a cost-efficient alternative to buying a brand new truck and recommended that the DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency repeal the glider kit manufacturing cap.

“Glider kits are appealing to our members because they are at least 25% less expensive than new commercial motor vehicles,” Spencer wrote. “These savings can translate to tens of thousands of dollars when you consider the cost of a new truck can approach $250,000.”

Driver training

OOIDA believes the best way to improve highway safety is to ensure a well-trained driver the best way to improve highway safety is through an effective driver training program. The Association was supportive of FMCSA’s entry-level driver training rule, which goes into effect in 2022, and would like to see it include behind-the-wheel training.

“The ELDT rule can be further enhanced by requiring a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel training,” Spencer wrote.

“DOT should modify this rulemaking to include at least a 30-hour minimum of behind-the-wheel instruction for prospective drivers as proposed by a majority of the entry-level driver training advisory committee.”

Broker transparency

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, historically low freight rates followed. OOIDA responded by petitioning FMCSA to improve broker transparency.

There already is a regulation on the books mandating brokers keep transaction records and allow carriers to review those records. However, OOIDA points out that many brokers are able to evade the rule by requiring waivers or contending that owner-operators are not a party to the transaction.

OOIDA’s petition proposed two steps to improve broker transparency.

Require brokers to automatically provide an electronic copy of each transaction record within 48 hours after the contractual service has been completed.
Explicitly prohibit brokers from including any provision in their contracts that requires a carrier to waive their rights to access the transaction records as required by 49 CFR 371.3.

“When rates decline, many truckers are concerned they’re the only ones feeling the pain – or at least feeling a disproportionate amount of the pain,” Spencer wrote. “This will not change until federal regulators enhance and enforce the broker transparency regulations listed in 49 CFR 371.3. OOIDA strongly encourages FMCSA to promulgate and enforce measures that will prevent brokers from continuing to circumvent these requirements.”

Electronic logging devices

OOIDA maintains its stance that the ELD mandate provides no safety benefit.

“The rulemaking was approved based on the false premise that ELDs will reduce the risk of fatigue-related crashes,” Spencer wrote. “Since the mandate’s implementation in December 2017, there has been no data suggesting that ELDs actually reduce crashes even if hours-of-service compliance has improved. As a result of the mandate, small businesses have been forced to bear the majority of the $1.8 billion price tag associated with the installation of these devices. For owner-operators, these costs have led to less investment for maintenance, equipment, and other critical safety upgrades.”

Considering a lack of data showing substantial highway safety improvements, OOIDA recommends that the costly ELD mandate be repealed. If not repealed, OOIDA asks the DOT to provide exemptions from the mandate to carriers with proven safety records.

Speed limiters

The Association contends that a speed limiter mandate would not only fail to improve safety but that it would likely lead to more crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. OOIDA cites studies that indicate an increase in interactions between vehicles directly increases the likelihood of crashes. Because a speed limiter set at 60 or 65 mph would create speed differentials that could exceed 20 mph, interactions between vehicles would spike.

The increased interactions would likely worsen an already existing problem of passenger vehicles running into the back of commercial motor vehicles. According to large truck crash stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, trucks are rear-ended three times more often in fatal crashes than other vehicles.

Other agency actions

OOIDA also recommended that the Department of Transportation:

  • Reject any calls for increases in insurance coverage.
  • Not make motor carriers’ safety data publicly available until the methodology for generating ratings have proven to be fair and accurate.
  • Provide funding for the construction of new rest areas and truck parking facilities, while also helping public entities convert existing spaces (inspection sites, weigh stations and closed rest areas) into truck parking locations.
  • End the ban of commercial activities at interstate rest areas, allowing such businesses as food trucks.
  • Include noncargo-carrying tractor-high mount trailer combinations in the FHWA’s definition of “automobile transporter.”

“As DOT undertakes this regulatory review, the Department must prioritize addressing trucking regulations and rulemakings that have burdened the industry with a one-size-fits-all approach that punishes small businesses,” Spencer wrote. “We challenge this administration to find less intrusive alternatives that enhance highway safety and improve working conditions for small trucking businesses. The ideas we’ve presented are a few ways to start.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.