By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
We know you don’t have time to keep up with all of the bills being considered in your home state that affect your trucking business. That’s why your Association keeps a close watch on legislative action in statehouses 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.”
Awaiting a Senate floor vote, one bill would give police in cities with fewer than 19,000 residents the authority to ticket speeders on interstates. SB33 would also allow speed enforcement for all police departments on roads outside of city limits but within their jurisdictions.
A similar Senate bill – SB19 – includes the provision to enable small-town police departments to enforce speeds on interstates.
The Senate voted to approve a bill that would expand the vehicles covered in the state’s “Move Over” law to include any vehicle parked on the side of the road, including large trucks. SB1133 is in the House.
The Senate also voted to advance to the House a measure that could end the use of photo radar in the state. SCR1029 would put a photo radar ban to a public vote.
Lawmakers approved giving voters the final say on whether to boost the 22.5-cent diesel tax by 5 cents per gallon. HB1902 would tack on the nickel increase in the diesel tax to the 4 cents of the tax now tied to a $575 million bond program for interstates.
Voters will also decide on a temporary half-cent sales tax increase to help address repairs and construction of a statewide four-lane highway system. The hike sought in HJR1001 would sunset after 10 years.
A new law prohibits use of hand-held cell phones in highway work zones and near schools. Violations would be a secondary offense. The new law takes effect Oct. 1, 2011.
One bill would affect port truckers, including owner-operators. AB950 would deem drayage truck operators to be employees of the companies that arrange for their services.
Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill to help pay for road repairs. SB1194 authorizes up to $68.9 million in state bonding to foot the bill for paving and fixing 200 miles of roads damaged during the winter.
HB4087 would repeal existing state law that allows use of cameras to enforce red-light violations. S72 is similar.
At press time, a bill moving through the statehouse is intended to curtail lawsuits filed against the state for permitting so-called “megaloads.” H193 would require anyone filing a lawsuit to challenge the plans to haul oversized loads to post a bond equal to 5 percent of the load’s insured value.
A Senate bill would abolish red-light cameras. SB26 would make it illegal for red-light cameras to be used to issue tickets from turning right during a red light.
The full House could soon review a bill to take decisions about partnering with private groups for toll roads out of the hands of state lawmakers. SB473 would allow the governor and the state DOT to decide whether to sign deals with private companies to build or convert highways to toll roads.
The House Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill that would set up uniform rules for the use of red-light cameras and speed cameras. Fines for red-light violations would be limited to $50. HSB93 would use a sliding scale for speeders caught on camera.
A bill on Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk would increase the speed limit by 5 mph on portions of highway. SB213 would raise speeds for all vehicles from 70 mph to 75 mph on rural stretches of divided four-lane highways. Speeding violations within 10 mph of the posted limit would not be reported to insurance.
Two bills address use of ticket cameras. HB104 would require 50 percent of the revenue generated from fines and court costs collected as a result of a red light violation on a state highway to be distributed to the Missouri DOT.
SB212 would establish a minimum standard for yellow times for traffic-control devices. Interval times would be required to be established in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards.
A bill drawing floor debate relies on the existing sales tax and bonding to get road work done. LB84 would take a half-cent of the state sales tax each year for the next two decades and earmark it for highway construction. The NDOR would also be required 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.
Awaiting floor consideration is a bill that would extend the number of days that permits can be given for trucks in excess of the weight limit. Currently, fees for 30-day permits are $25, while 60-day permits are $50. Permits can be extended by 120 days. LB35 would lengthen the extension to 200 days.
Gov. Dave Heineman signed a truck rule into law that will secure federal funding. Previously LB178, the new rule puts the state in adherence with the FMCSA’s 2012 medical certification requirements. Truckers who fail to certify by Jan. 30, 2014, would be subject to downgrade.
SB48 would authorize the DMV to issue replacement permits for tractor-trailers coupled with two or three trailers. The fee would be $50. Anyone found to be using a lost or stolen permit would face a $2,500 fine. Revenue from the fines and fees would be put into the state’s highway fund.
Meanwhile, AB188 is intended to curtail the use of longer trucks running through the state. Triple trailers would be banned by eliminating the authority to issue longer combination vehicle permits.
Gov. Susana Martinez has a bill on her desk that is intended to boost commercial trucking with Mexico. HB24 would 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 would be affected.
Awaiting Gov. John Lynch’s signature is a bill to increase the maximum weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. HB117 would authorize commercial vehicles equipped with APUs to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
The Senate voted to advance a bill to the Assembly that would cancel toll hikes on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Specifically, S2636 would direct the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to adopt a resolution to reduce tolls no longer required for payment of a now defunct tunnel project to link New York and New Jersey.
A3850 would amend the state’s snow and ice removal law that allow police to ticket drivers simply for having wintry precipitation atop their vehicles. The bill would exempt commercial motor vehicles from the mandate until “appropriate removal equipment” is available.
A bill in the Assembly Transportation Committee would create various programs intended to strengthen truck driver safety. It is referred to as “Jason’s Law.”
A3471 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 HOS regulations.
An identical Senate bill – S2359 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.
HB145 would authorize use of speed cameras in work zones and school zones around the state. Revenue from fines of as much as $250 would be applied to schools.
A separate bill, S187, would outlaw red-light cameras.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law a bill to authorize a regional permit system on excess size or weight vehicles. HB1082 gives the Highway Patrol and state DOT the ability to reach agreements with other states about the regional operation or movement of “nondivisible oversize or overweight vehicles.”
Still on the governor’s desk is a bill to put the state in accordance with the FMCSA’s 2012 medical certification requirements. Truckers who run interstate and are self-certified would be limited to intrastate operation only. Also included in SB2112 is a provision to prohibit truckers from text messaging while driving.
A bill nearing completion would authorize tougher penalties for drivers who use roads closed due to harsh weather. State law now limits fines for violators to $20. SB2157 would authorize escalating fines starting at $100 and points tacked onto licenses.
The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the House that would ban speeding tickets based on photos. S336 would also require police to directly hand tickets to drivers within an hour of a violation.
On the move in the House, HB1500 would standardize photo enforcement camera systems statewide. Traffic studies would need to show the system is necessary. Cities would also be prohibited from issuing tickets to drivers who fail to come to a complete stop when making a right turn on red. In addition, cities would be blocked from issuing photo tickets for making a right turn at a red unless a sign is posted prohibiting right turns on red.
So long split speeds? The House Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that would increase the speed limit on most rural highways to 75 mph day and night. In addition, HB1353 would eliminate the speed differential between cars and trucks. The 80 mph speed limit in west Texas would also apply to all vehicles 24 hours a day.
The Senate voted to send a bill to the House that would permit trucks with “clean idle” engines to idle while also providing an incentive to reduce idling.
Texas law now limits idling to five minutes per hour from April to October in certain cities and counties. 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.
Commercial vehicles equipped with APUs would also be authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
Another bill – SB1321 – would regulate the towing and storage of vehicles, including trucks, in the state. Tow truck operators would be required to present a schedule of fees to the vehicle’s owner or operator. A statement must be provided that contains information that includes the total amount charged for the tow, number of miles towed and the daily vehicle storage rate. Tow companies would also be prohibited from holding cargo until the tow bill is paid in full.
In Utah, the Legislature approved a joint resolution that urges Congress to lift the freeze on longer combination vehicles. The authorization would permit bigger trucks on federal highways, and allow 13 western states to conduct pilot programs to evaluate routes, configurations, and operating conditions. The non-binding resolution – SJR6 – will be sent to federal officials for review.
The General Assembly approved Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation funding plan.
HB2527/SB1446 is the biggest portion of the governor’s funding initiative. The plan includes borrowing about $3 billion during the next three years. Another $1 billion in available cash would be used to pay for up to 900 projects.
Another component of the governor’s transportation agenda to win approval from lawmakers is intended to reduce the number of trucks traveling the Interstate 64 corridor in Hampton Roads. HB2385/SB1282 grants a $50 per container income tax credit for companies that ship cargo containers via barge or rail.
The governor signed two bills of interest into law. HB2028 authorizes the DMV to deny, suspend or revoke vehicle registration as a result of a motor carrier’s failure to comply with federal or state safety requirements.
HB2040/SB1109 allows inmates to maintain rest stops. Inmates will mow grass, landscape and do repairs.
Awaiting a decision from the governor is a bill that addresses overweight vehicle fees. HB2022 calls for setting up a comprehensive, tiered schedule of fees for overweight vehicles.
Nearing completion in the Legislature is a bill that would establish tolls on the state Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington. SB5700 would authorize variable toll rates on the bridge to pay for a replacement crossing.
Similarly, HB1382 would authorize express toll lanes on Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Interstate 5 at Lynnwood. The affected route stretches 40 miles. The toll rate would vary according to traffic conditions. General purpose, or free lanes, would not be converted to express toll lanes. LL