By Keith Goble
state legislative editor
Bills of note
Truckers give thumbs up to the Pennsylvania House for voting to do away with indemnification clauses in motor carrier transportation contracts. The bill is intended to level the playing field for motor carriers and professional drivers. Shippers that improperly load product would be prevented from shifting liability. Contractual language to the contrary would be void.
Specifically, it would void indemnity provisions in all future contracts for the transportation, loading, unloading or incidental services of property by motor carriers for transportation.
HB2375 has moved to the Senate.
In New York, a bill on the move would make it more difficult to restrict heavy trucks from roads in the Finger Lakes region of the state.
S7177 addresses a failed effort to ban all local truck traffic on seven secondary roads in upstate New York. The NYSDOT would be required to show a “demonstrated public safety hazard” before commercial vehicles could be restricted from state highways.
New Jersey lawmakers are pursuing legislation that is intended to reduce credentialing requirements for hazardous materials haulers.
S1937/A2547 would exempt truckers seeking a hazmat or tank vehicle endorsement from a secondary background check, provided they have a valid TWIC.
Currently, in order for a commercial driver to be given clearance to all ports and other secured areas in the state, the driver is required to have a criminal background check to obtain a TWIC. The driver then must undergo an additional background check to be approved for a hazmat or tank endorsement on his or her license.
Federal law, however, considers a person who has a valid TWIC to have met the background records check that is necessary to receive a hazmat endorsement.
Also in New Jersey is a bill that would authorize “appropriately trained” local law enforcement officers to inspect trucks.
A735 would authorize officers to conduct random roadside inspections of vehicles and combinations of vehicles to determine whether they meet the legal weights and measures restrictions. Trained officers also would be authorized to conduct inspections and break cargo seals of vehicles carrying hazardous materials, as well as conduct roadside emissions inspections.
On the left coast, the California Assembly advanced to the Senate a bill that would require brokers of construction trucking services to post a bond to ensure payment to a dump truck operator whose services were brokered. The broker would also receive certification of the dump truck operator’s permit to operate.
AB145 would require brokers to secure a surety bond of at least $15,000 to ensure payment. If brokers fail to pay the dump truck operator by the 25th day of the month after services were rendered, they would face a possible $15,000 fine.
A rebuttable presumption would also be created in favor of the dump truck operator if there is a civil action filed due to lack of payment.
A Michigan Senate bill is intended to shut trucks off. Commercial vehicles would be prohibited from idling for more than 5 minutes per hour. While loading or unloading, idling would be allowed for up to 30 minutes per hour.
Exemptions would include when idling is necessary to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners, or “during installation of equipment, solely to prevent a safety or health emergency.”
There is no exemption for extreme temperatures. SB1069 does, however, specify that APUs, gen sets, or other idle-reduction technology is allowed.
The California Assembly moved a bill to the Senate, which would increase the maximum gross vehicle weight limit for trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. Trucks equipped with APUs would be authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
A similar effort is nearing passage in New York. A memo attached to A8300 explains that the weight exemption would enhance air quality and help to eliminate truck idling while the driver meets his or her federal- and state-mandated rest periods.
Also, the exemption would mean that “the installation of an APU will not diminish the amount of freight that a truck can legally carry,” the memo reads. “While 400 pounds may not seem like a significant amount, it can easily translate to an additional pallet of freight.”
Massachusetts lawmakers are moving forward on their plan to make the same exemption for idle reduction systems on commercial vehicles. At press time, H3334 was awaiting a House floor vote. If approved there, it would head to the Senate.
Options presented to Pennsylvania lawmakers are far from being in short supply for a special session to address the transportation funding crisis.
Gov. Ed Rendell has covered multiple options to address a long-term solution to paying for roads, bridges and transit. Among them is one of his more notorious plans – getting federal permission to toll I-80. Tolling I-95 is another option from the governor. But he isn’t the only one to talk tolls.
Three Democratic lawmakers have offered a bill to charge tolls at the border of each of the state’s interstates.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, is calling for more accountability before taxpayers get their pockets picked yet again. He wants to roll the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission into the Pennsylvania DOT.
In Michigan, OOIDA and others oppose a bill that would permit the Michigan DOT to lease out transportation infrastructure. HB4961 would authorize certain transportation projects, including a new Detroit River bridge, to be built as public-private partnerships and financed with tolls. Private operators would also have the ability to toll truckers and other drivers elsewhere in the state and do it without legislative oversight.
Approved by the House, the bill would also allow contracts that could last longer than 99 years, and opens the door to financial penalties that local governments would have to pay to private road operators in order to build or expand “competing” public roads.
Across the state line, two Ohio bills focus on tolls. SB224 would hand over possession of the state’s turnpike and lottery in return for a bundle of cash. Proceeds from sale or lease deals would be used for upper education.
Among the roadblocks to enacting the legislation is a potential public vote on the issue. The Ohio Constitution designates the lottery as a function of state government. Voters would be required to approve an amendment to permit private operation of the lottery, as well as using lottery profits for higher education.
Another bill – HB166 – would authorize regions of the state to come up with new ways to pay for transportation projects, including tolls, which are intended to drive economic development.
Currently, the Ohio Turnpike is the state’s lone toll road. The House-approved bill would allow for the creation of 24 transportation innovation authorities. The authorities could pay for road, bridge, transit and light rail projects through special fees, dedicated sales or income taxes, or tolls.
A New Jersey bill would bring in additional money for toll plazas. A2407 would allow businesses to sponsor and advertise their products at toll plazas on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.
The bill awaits clearance to the full Assembly for further consideration.
An effort in the New York statehouse, referred to as “Jason’s Law,” would create various programs intended to strengthen truck driver safety.
A11095 would offer interest free loans and a 50-percent tax credit for owners or operators of private rest areas, truck stops, travel plazas and any other facility providing truck drivers with safe refuge.
A 20 percent tax credit would be made available for shipping and receiving facilities that agree to provide truckers with a secure area to rest while waiting for pending appointments or to comply with federal hours-of-service regulations.
In addition, a “bull pen” demonstration program would be created along the New York State Thruway. The program would test the affordability and effectiveness of developing dedicated parking facilities. Facilities would be required to include fencing, security cameras, gated entrances and limited lavatory accommodations.
In Ohio, a bill would require verifiable evidence, like radar, laser or similar devices for police officers to ticket speeders. The Ohio Highway Patrol already follows this policy.
In the case of airborne speed enforcement, SB280 would require a calculation based on the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to travel a specific distance.
At press time, the bill was awaiting assignment to committee in the Senate.
The California Assembly voted to advance a bill to the Senate that is intended to collect millions from police officers and other state workers, as well as their families, who are able to get around paying parking tickets, toll violations or red-light camera fines. The home addresses are not displayed in DMV public-access records.
Currently, California law allows police officers and other state workers to obtain confidential license plates. Intended to protect officials from criminals, the list of jobs included has expanded through the years to include everything from county supervisors and park rangers to museum guards.
AB2097 would require confidential plate holders to submit a current employment address. Tickets would be mailed to that location.
Michigan lawmakers are considering closing their own loophole in state law. HB6164 and HB6165 make up a two-bill package that would require all municipalities to comply with a 2006 traffic law. The law requires all speed limits to be determined by the number of driveways and cross streets on a particular stretch of road, or by conducting a traffic study to determine the average speed of 85 percent of drivers.
The bill package would force communities to conduct speed studies to properly set limits required by the four-year-old law. Speed limits would also be required to be regularly posted along roadways. LL