Cover Story
OOIDA focuses on 2014

By Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president

2013 the wrap-up
The first session of the 113th Congress, which wrapped up before Christmas, has been called the least productive congressional session in history. While both the House and Senate have passed a few bills to address some large and looming issues, minor achievements are hailed as great compromises.

For OOIDA and truckers, the biggest news of the year from Congress was the passage into law of HR3095 to halt FMCSA’s efforts to advance sleep apnea policy without a thorough and official review, as well as the significant congressional attention on the impact of the changes in the hours-of-service rules. OOIDA’s D.C. office was very active in each of these actions, leading the effort to develop and pass HR3095; ensuring that an OOIDA member testified at both House hearings on HOS; and working with congressional offices on developing legislation that seeks to rescind changes to the voluntary 34-hour restart provision.

In addition, the D.C. office has been busy working on issues related to the Federal Highway Administration’s truck size and weight study, the Jason’s Law truck parking survey, and the implementation of trucker-friendly, freight-related provisions of last year’s highway bill. In each of these efforts, we have brought many OOIDA members to D.C. to talk directly with the agencies and Congress.

Electronic onboard recording devices, speed limiters, detention time, other FMCSA regulatory issues, and emerging areas surrounding driver compensation have been and will continue to be major priorities.

2014 what’s ahead
Heading into 2014, the focus in D.C. will be on the development of the next highway bill. Funding sources and allocations will be the largest hurdle. Both the Senate and the House, including leading members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, have already hinted at particular methods for funding the Highway Trust Fund, though no one has committed firmly to a specific approach.

It seems that all parties are coming to the table with an all-hands-on-deck approach, meaning anything and everything will be considered when it comes to highway funding. Needless to say, emphasizing truckers’ opposition to tolling, to public-private partnerships, and to vehicle-miles-traveled taxes (while highlighting fuel taxes as the best way to fund highways) will be a major focus area. We will also continue to fight against efforts to divert highway dollars toward transit and other projects.

Delving into the regulatory and policy side of the next highway bill was our mission throughout 2013 and will remain so in 2014. OOIDA will continue to work on establishing a federal driver training standard that can be exercised across the industry to promote and improve highway safety.

With 2013 being the year leading up to the next highway bill, the Washington office spent much of last year alerting members of Congress about the training issue, and spreading the message via the website. We have identified and cultivated allies to advance our agenda when the time for debate on policy reform occurs. We feel that the next bill will be a vehicle to help advance this approach.

Aside from the training issue, the bill also represents an opportunity to rein in some of DOT’s regulatory agenda. We will be highlighting the lack of safety rationale for mandates like EOBRs and speed limiters and the questionable effectiveness of CSA and restrictive HOS rules as part of a broader approach regarding regulatory oversight.

We are likely to see the release of proposed rules from DOT on the speed limiter and EOBR issues early in 2014, representing clear opportunities for truckers to weigh in with Congress and the agencies. The truck size and weight issue is likely to be a major focus of the next highway bill. The insurance minimum increase threat is real and is shaping up to be one of the major fights in the next bill, with trial lawyers, “safety groups,” and mega motor carriers leading the effort. Audits of the CSA program are set for release sometime early next year.

The year 2013 was the calm before the storm, with these issues, as well as others, set to dominate 2014. Through our grassroots outreach and PAC, the D.C. office is working on maximizing our engagement to ensure that the voice of OOIDA’s members is heard by policymakers. However, we need you to help us in these tasks.

The last thing truckers should do is assume these issues will solve themselves. Don’t think that it isn’t worth contacting policymakers because the decisions have already been made. The action on the sleep apnea bill is a sure sign that real

If they don’t hear your voice, then they will assume you are OK with the status quo. At OOIDA, we’re not. LL