By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
Elected officials in nearly half of all statehouses throughout the country continue to consider bills that affect your trucking business. We know you don’t have time to keep up with all the legislative action. That’s why your Association keeps a close watch on action for you.
On this and the following pages, you will find a roundup of some significant action from around the country. For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit ooida.com and click on “Issues & Actions.” You can also visit landlinemag.com and click on “Legislative Watch.”
Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill to void indemnity provisions in all future contracts for the transportation, loading, unloading or incidental services of property by motor carriers. As of July 20, HB2359 prevents shippers that improperly load product from shifting liability. Contractual language to the contrary will be void.
Another bill signed into law expands the vehicles covered in the state’s “Move Over” law to include any vehicle parked on the side of the road, including large trucks.
One more new law offers some protection from “crash tax” fees. Previously HB2003, the new law prohibits cities and counties from pursuing fees in the future. However, crash taxes could be applied for property damage, ambulance services, or in rural areas without their own fire or police department.
Multiple bills at the statehouse address ticket cameras. AB1041 would protect the use of ticket cameras in San Francisco. City-owned public transit vehicles are permitted to be outfitted with cameras to record parking violations occurring in the affected lanes. However, the program is slated to sunset at the end of the year. The bill would make use of the cameras permanent.
SB29 would set up standards for camera placement and for the tickets based on them.
At press time, a bill one vote shy of advancing to the governor’s desk would set a statewide idling standard of no more than five minutes per hour. The list of circumstances that would exempt truckers from the restriction is lengthy. Valid reasons to idle in HB1275 would include situations when idling is necessary to heat or cool a sleeper berth during a rest or sleep period, and at a rest area, truck terminal or truck stop. An exception for temperatures below 10 degrees would also apply.
Awaiting consideration on the House and Senate floor is a bill that would authorize temporary tolls to pay for such projects as the completion of state Route 11. HB6200 calls for tolls to be removed when enough toll revenue is generated to cover construction bonds and “an amount estimated to be required for maintenance and repair” is collected.
The Senate voted to advance a bill to the House that would give law enforcement more authority to ticket drivers who block traffic, even if they are driving the speed limit, in the left lane. A failure to stay to the right would be included as one of the offenses that make up “aggressive careless driving.” S244 would prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multilane highway if they “reasonably should know” that they are being overtaken by another vehicle.
A bill halfway through the statehouse would remove length limits for the distance between the kingpin and the center of the rear axle of semitrailers longer than 48 feet. Currently, the limit is 45 feet, 6 inches on Class I and Class II highways. On Class III and other state highways, the limit is 42 feet, 6 inches. The bill is SB2056.
The Legislature has approved a bill to allow the governor and the state DOT to decide whether to use state money or sign deals with private companies to build toll roads. SB473 would still require legislative approval to convert existing roadways to toll roads. Another provision in the bill would authorize the governor to add toll lanes, including truck-only lanes and high-occupancy toll lanes, to existing roadways as long as free lanes are not reduced.
Effective July 1 is a new law that addresses indemnity protection in construction contracts. Previously SF396, the new law frees trucking companies, professional drivers and construction companies from being forced to take responsibility for damage that is not their fault.
The Senate General Laws Committee voted to advance SB277, which would require municipalities to allow at least one street, with access from both directions, to be available for large trucks to access any roads in the state highway system.
Gov. Susana Martinez has signed into law a bill that is intended to boost commercial activity via Mexico. Starting July 1, a new law will provide special permits to operate overweight trucks for certain reducible loads within six miles of a port-of-entry facility on the state's border with Mexico. Trucks weighing up to 96,000 pounds will be affected.
The Senate voted to advance a bill to the Assembly that is intended to simplify movement of truck loads between upstate New York and Long Island. S1523 would authorize a nondivisible load permit issued by the state DOT, instead of a New York City DOT permit. The state-issued permits would be valid along one specific route through New York City connecting Westchester County to Nassau County.
A bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would require legislative approval of any first-responder fee. Currently, there is no state law that prohibits imposing additional fees and taxes on motorists involved in wrecks for emergency response services. The bill is S2277.
The Senate approved a bill that would put a stop to the use of red-light cameras throughout the state. Existing law authorizes more than 20 communities throughout the state to use red-light cameras. S187 would make it illegal to operate any cameras.
Three bills of note are halfway through the Legislature. SB259 would make motor carrier contracts unenforceable that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence. Affected contracts would be defined as any written agreement for the transportation of property for compensation or hire, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, or any service incidental to such activity, including the packing or storage of property.
HB2081 would prohibit commercial vehicles from idling for more than five minutes each hour. Exceptions would include “engine use necessary to power the vehicle’s mechanical or electrical operations if alternatives are not reasonably available.” An exception would also be made for passenger or driver comfort.
HB2138 would put the state in accordance with the FMCSA’s 2012 medical certification requirements. CDL holders operating interstate would be required to submit a copy of their medical certificate to the state DOT. Failure to do so would result in the loss of commercial driving privileges.
A major transportation bill nearing passage includes provisions to overhaul TxDOT, allow about 20 private toll roads to be built, and shift from TxDOT to a new Texas Department of Motor Vehicles the permitting for oversize and overweight vehicles. Also included in SB1420 is a provision to prohibit ticket cameras on state roads, unless approved after a public hearing. Towns with fewer than 40,000 residents would be forbidden for using the technology to issue tickets.
A Senate-approved bill would permit trucks with “clean idle” engines to idle while also providing an incentive to reduce idling. Texas law now includes a seasonal idling restriction of five minutes per hour in various parts of the state.
SB493 would remove the idling restriction for trucks equipped with a 2008 model year or newer engine that is certified by the EPA. Heavy-duty engines certified by a state environmental agency to emit fewer than 30 grams of NOx per hour would also qualify.
A separate provision in the bill would authorize trucks equipped with APUs to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law a bill to make motor carrier contracts unenforceable that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence.
Previously HB73, the new law also defines affected contracts as any written agreement for the transportation of property for compensation or hire, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, or any service incidental to such activity, including the packing or storage of property.
A new law puts the state in accordance with the FMCSA’s 2012 medical certification requirements. SB1281 also eliminates the requirement for irregular-route common carriers to prove “public convenience and necessity” when applying for a license. In addition, the DMV is required to notify localities about the issuance of overweight and oversize permits. LL