OOIDA opposes AEB mandate in Senate highway bill

June 18, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association favors the Senate highway bill to the House highway bill, which is full of “anti-trucker” provisions.

Unlike the House version, the Senate bill does not include measures to increase minimum insurance requirement on motor carriers, and it doesn’t mandate screening for obstructive sleep apnea. Land Line also recently outlined some of the measures in the Senate version that OOIDA supports, including attempts to improve the National Consumer Complaint Database and the creation of a Truck Leasing Task Force.

“It could have been far worse and is much better than what the House passed last week,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “It’s a relief that the most harmful trucking provisions that were originally promoted in the Senate did not make it into the bill. OOIDA led the fight against several provisions that were rejected in a bipartisan manner.”

With that said, OOIDA believes the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 has plenty of room for improvement.

An automatic emergency braking mandate and language involving side underride guards are among the measures in the Senate bill that OOIDA opposes.

Automatic emergency braking

The Senate highway bill would task FMCSA with creating a rule requiring an automatic emergency braking system be installed in new heavy-duty trucks.

First, the measure would establish performance requirements for automatic emergency braking systems.

Within two years of the bill being enacted, the U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to complete a study assessing the “feasibility, benefits, and costs associated with installing automatic emergency braking systems on a variety of newly manufactured commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,001 pounds.”

Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs, told Land Line Now that the Association remains opposed to any mandates calling for the technology.

“This technology is not quite perfected yet,” Grimes said. “We still see a lot of errors and problems with it. A rushed mandate is certainly not the direction we think things should be going in terms of safety.”

Grimes said if the provision is approved there would likely be a three-year timeline before a mandate was enacted.

“Unfortunately, this provision does pretty much outline a time frame to implement a mandate on this,” he said.

The markup hearing on June 16 did pass an amendment from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., that would require that the report include feedback from commercial motor vehicle drivers on their experiences with automatic emergency braking systems, including any malfunctions or unwarranted activations. OOIDA worked to get that amendment included.

Underride protection in the Senate highway bill

As part of the Senate highway bill, the Department of Transportation would be required to complete research on side underride guards “to better understand the overall effectiveness.” The report would be tasked with assessing the feasibility, benefits, costs and any effects on intermodal equipment, freight mobility and freight capacity associated with installing side underride guards on newly manufactured trailers and semitrailers with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.

The Senate highway bill also would require new trailers and semitrailers to be equipped with rear impact guards designed to withstand a vehicle traveling at 35 mph, and the creation of an advisory committee on underride protection.

OOIDA is against any push toward an eventual mandate of side underride guards. The Association has previously spoken out against the Stop Underrides Act, which would require underride guards on the sides and front of all new tractor-trailers.

“The mandates you’re promoting may actually increase the number of crashes on American highways while simultaneously worsening their severity,” OOIDA wrote to lawmakers supporting the Stop Underrides Act. “Your legislation also creates serious economic hardships and operational challenges for small trucking businesses, which comprise 96% of U.S. motor carriers.” LL

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.