NEFI battles costly on-board recorder mandate

Written on: August 12, 2012 by ICM

The final surface transportation or “highway” bill approved by United States Congress was signed into law by President Obama earlier this summer. The new law includes a costly measure that will require the installation of an Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR) in any commercial vehicle that operates in interstate commerce and has a driver subject to hours-of-service regulations. The New England Fuel Institute opposes this costly new burden on small business heating fuel dealers.
The new mandate could be a major burden on the home energy industry. It is possible that in writing a rule to enforce the mandate, the Department of Transportation (DOT) could broaden the language to include nearly all trucks subject to hours-of-service regulations. The cost of installing an EOBR is estimated to be between $1,000 and $1,500 per vehicle, with additional monthly costs to keep the recorder in-service and operational. There are also concerns about the requirement that the device be GPSenabled which raises “big brother”-type privacy concerns.
Highway safety advocates and large trucking groups have been pushing for the mandate. Smaller trucking groups, fleet managers and short-distance haulers meanwhile expressed concerns that they will not be able to meet the high costs and cannot afford to have trucks out-of-service for installation and drivers off the road for training on its use.
In a letter to the Department of Transportation in May of last year, NEFI questioned the need for expanding the EOBR mandate beyond its current use as a remedial directive for defined threshold HOS violations. NEFI pointed out that the Department’s own Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) revealed that the rate of out-of-service orders for HOS violations has dropped significantly since 2004.
“Given the continuing downward trend in HOS violations, an expansion of the EOBR mandate is unnecessary at this time,” NEFI argued.
The battle is not over, however. In considering a separate DOT funding measure, the House of Representatives approved by voice vote the Rep. Landry (R-LA) amendment to ban the Obama administration from spending any money to enforce the EOBR mandate. The spending bill containing the measure now heads to the Senate for consideration. NEFI, along with other associations, including the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA), continue to oppose the mandate and support the Landry amendment to prevent its enforcement.
Well over 20 years ago on a very busy night, I received a service call for noises. When the customer let me in, the first thing I noticed was how humid it was in the house. The windows were sweating. The Mrs. told me that her husband had been sick for months and she was not feeling well herself. The problem was a broken coupler on the B&G circulator.
After I repaired it, I fired the gas boiler and checked it for safety and operation only to discover massive spillage from the draft diverter. The chimney was completely blocked. Now that explained the humidity and the occupants’ health issues. I immediately turned the boiler and water heater off and opened all the windows, and after some prodding, convinced the homeowners to seek medical help for CO exposure. We also called the Fire Dept.
I also realized that I was very fortunate as I could have passed out and succumbed in the basement. Not suprisingly, there were no odors. I think what saved everyone, was that it was an old house with old drafty windows and doors. A wake up call to be sure. Ever since then, I have my CO detector running before I enter any building and tell every customer who burns fossil fuels that they NEED a CO alarm if they don’t have one already. No ifs, ands or buts! Kevin Dooley, Langhorne, PA