In a hearing before the Small Business Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week whose title was a markedly direct question — “Is FMCSA’s CSA program driving small businesses off the road?” — Republican Rep. Jeff Landry of Louisiana took the opportunity during questioning of FMCSA Deputy Administrator Bill Bronrott to question the administration’s good intentions on electronic on-board recorders.
Rep. Landry of course is one half of the primary sponsoring pair behind the Landry-Rahall amendment to House’s version of the FY 2013 transportation appropriations bill that would cut off funding to implement any EOBR mandate through the end of that fiscal year. (It still faces Senate approval.)
“How do you feel about on-board recorders being mandated by the Federal government?” Landry asked after a brief lambasting of the lack of crash fault being accounted for in the CSA system to begin his portion of the question-answer session following Bronrott’s presentation. (Nothing new there: Anne Ferro herself went over all the same salient points in her conference with the Trucking Solutions Group owner-operators and other listening drivers several weeks back now).
Bronrott affirmed that the agency supports mandating EOBRs.
Landry: “Do you know that the president has singled out on-board recorders as costing small businesses over $2 billion dollars to implement, and he believes they should not be implemented? Did you not get that memo that he sent to [Speaker of the House John Boehner]?”
Landry made reference there to the list of seven regulations then in various stages of rulemaking that were estimated to cost $1 billion or more to implement — EOBRs and related supporting documents were on that list, as was the new hours rule. President Obama noted in a letter to House Speaker Boehner that any of those regulations would be reviewed consummate with Executive Order 13563, “designed to reduce regulatory burdens and costs.”
Bronrott noted work by the Office of Management and Budget that showed a net gain long-term from an EOBR mandate, stating that the President supports the agency’s efforts to mandate EOBRs.
Landry: “So… What [the President] sent to the speaker is basically — a lie?
Bronrott: “The OMB and our agency made it clear there is a net gain to industry of over $2 billion a year by the implementation of EOBRs…”
While one might view Landry as diverging into grandstanding there, he followed with a kicker: That $2 billion rule implementation estimate will fall on small businesses, largely, not “the big guys,” Landry said, as so many of the larger fleets have already voluntarily implemented EOBRs. “Their fleets are so large, [EOBRs make] for a better way to manage those fleets. When you implement it on the little guy it drives them out of business, and the big guy gets bigger, and I’m sick and tired of that up here. What happens is big corporations come up here and convince y’all to do something they want to do.”
If some fleets want on-board recorders, that should be their business, Landry went on. “I don’t understand how the president gets up in front of the national media and says to the American people that he is for small businesses, and that he is for doing away with regulations that burden small businesses … and yet you as his representative, you as his mouthpiece, come here and tell us that you are [promoting] a regulation that imposes a $2 billion cost to small businesses… It doesn’t add up where I come from.”
Bronrott (paraphrased): EOBRs will save hundreds of lives a year and come with a net savings to the industry.
Landry kept up the pressure to the point where he asked Bronrott for a yes or no answer to a question that further probed the vagaries of rhetoric on small-business regulation and Obama’s perceived disingenuous statements.
“I’m not sure there is a yes or no,” Bronrott said, putting a cap on the exchange.
The full video of the hearing — the question in whose title was ultimately rhetorical, though the perspectives offered plenty of food for thought — is below, and I’ll be reporting further on a few different aspects of the testimony later. If you’ve got a couple hours to spare, give it a view. The exchange above begins around minute 37.
FAQs about EOBRs highlighted on FMCSA Website
CSA’s sloppy accident accounting
Does the EOBR mandate have another problem?
Obama signs highway bill mandating EOBRs
House removes funding for onboard recorder mandate
"Until a formal regulation is established with clear guidelines and borders ...