By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
State lawmakers around the country are off and running, introducing a flurry of bills that could have a significant effect on the lives and businesses of truckers.
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.”
Intent on ending the “free ride,” Transportation Chairman Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, is pushing to charge tolls at eight key entry points to the state.
Another toll issue that is likely to be brought up during the session focuses on an unfinished stretch of Route 11. Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, said he plans to introduce a bill that would authorize tolls on the roadway to pay for completing the route.
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, prefiled a bill for the upcoming session. It would prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multi-lane highway when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle, even if they are driving the speed limit.
S244 includes failure to stay to the right as one of the offenses that make up “aggressive careless driving.”
Another prefile would require household movers to renew their registration every two years. Currently, renewal must be done each year. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, S296 would also authorize a mover to exclude liability for household goods packed by the shipper, under certain circumstances.
In an effort to increase the speed limit by 5 mph on Iowa’s primary highways, SF3 would boost the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph on two-lane state highways. Two-lane county roads would remain unchanged.
A bill in the House Transportation Committee would raise the speed limit from 70 mph to 75 mph on rural stretches of divided four-lane highways. HB2034 would continue to enable KDOT to make exceptions to the rule.
Awaiting consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee, SB43 would make it illegal to charge tolls on existing roadways to pay for new projects.
One bill would take a half-cent of the state sales tax each year for the next two decades and earmark it for highway construction. LB84 would also require the Nebraska Department of Roads to spend at least $15 million each year on completion of the state’s expressway system. In addition, using bonds would be allowed for high-priority projects.
A Senate bill would make drivers who violate OOS orders responsible for paying at least $2,500 fines. Anyone caught more than once would pay $5,000. Motor carriers would face greater punishment.
Under SB51, getting behind the wheel of a truck subject to an OOS order would result in the driver’s license being suspended for between six months and one year. Repeat offenses within 10 years would result in loss of driving privileges for between two and five years.
The House Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that would increase the maximum weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. HB117 would authorize commercial vehicles equipped with auxiliary power units to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
Gov. Chris Christie unveiled his plan to pay for road, bridge and transit projects throughout the state.
The $8 billion, five-year transportation spending plan relies mostly on money from the state’s general fund, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and bonding. The program also calls for using money the Port Authority had planned to apply to a Hudson River tunnel project. Christie cancelled the project this fall.
A related effort is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor. In response to the governor’s plan to use toll revenue to fund a portion of his transportation initiative, S2636 would direct the Turnpike Authority to adopt a resolution to reduce tolls no longer required for payment of the tunnel project.
Tolls for heavy commercial vehicles to travel the full length of the turnpike were increased a few years ago from $26.55 to $37.15. Another increase is slated for 2012.
The House approved a bill, HB1082, which would authorize a regional permit system on excess size or weight vehicles. The Highway Patrol and state department of transportation would have the ability to reach agreements with other states about the regional operation or movement of “nondivisible oversize or overweight vehicles.”
A Senate bill would allow the SCDOT to pursue partnerships with private groups to get road work done. S103 specifically authorizes the state to seek partners to complete the proposed Interstate 73 project. Tolling authority would also be authorized for new projects and added lanes on existing roadways.
Three bills would authorize Texas state troopers to check southbound vehicles at the U.S. border. Even though the primary target is motorists, trucks wouldn’t be ruled out from additional inspection.
At press time, a measure moving through the statehouse is intended to protect the state’s transportation fund. The constitutional amendment – HJ511 – would protect the fund from transfers to the general fund.
The Senate approved a bill that would put the state in accordance with the FMCSA’s 2012 medical certification requirements. SF18 also specifies that anyone who violates out-of-service orders in Wyoming pay a steep price for their actions. Its next stop is the House.
The House voted to send a bill to the Senate that would allow motorists to surpass the speed limit by as much as 10 mph to pass other vehicles traveling below the posted speed on two-lane roads. Commercial vehicles would not be given the same tolerance. HB33 would apply only to roads with speed limits of at least 50 mph – excluding construction zones. LL