By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
Since the first of the year lawmakers throughout the country have been working at what could be considered breakneck speed to advance their agendas. A portion of those efforts are included on the following pages.
One bill would tweak existing state law to authorize private contractors to collect tolls. Arizona law already permits the AZDOT to work deals with private firms for road work. HB2358 would also do away with a provision allowing truckers and others paying tolls to seek reimbursement of fuel taxes.
An Assembly bill – AB1508 – would authorize city police and county sheriff’s officers to stop and inspect haulers of timber, livestock, poultry, farm produce and oil products.
Two bills cover issues of interest to truckers. HB1019 would transfer the Motor Carrier Services Division, and with it responsibility for Ports of Entry, from the Department of Revenue to the Department of Public Safety. The DOR would retain CDL licensing and the IRP.
HB1038 creates an alternate registration for interstate, commercial trucks and semitrailers if the owner is based in a jurisdiction other than Colorado or, if the owner is based in the state, the semitrailer is at least 10 years old.
On the move in the Senate is a bill to prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multilane 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.”
S1866 includes a provision to enhance FDOT’s authority to charge tolls on certain limited access facilities on state highways. It would also add citrus harvesting equipment and fruit loaders to the list of vehicles authorized for highway travel between farms while still being entitled to a state fuel tax refund.
One bill is intended to rein in efforts by the Illinois Tollway to increase tolls. HB3924 would prohibit the Tollway from increasing toll rates without first obtaining authorization from the General Assembly.
Two bills address the kingpin-rear axle length limit on semi trailers longer than 48 feet. SB2579 would remove length limits for the distance between the kingpin and the center of the rear axle of semitrailers longer than 48 feet. HB4446 would do the same specifically for livestock haulers.
The Senate approved SB301 – a bill to authorize INDOT to adopt rules to establish and designate a highway as an extra-heavy-duty highway.
Two efforts seek to revoke the use of ticket cameras throughout the state. One bill would make the ban state law while a separate initiative would leave the decision up to voters.
Two bills are of note to truckers. LD1623 would impose variable pricing on the Turnpike based on the time of day. A reduction in the rates of fees, fares and tolls would also be available to any class of vehicle based upon volume of use.
LD1710 limits to the first six years of registration the basing of the excise tax on the purchase price, rather than the list price, of a truck or a truck tractor weighing more than 26,000 pounds or Class A special mobile equipment.
In response to rate hikes to access most Maryland toll roads, bridges and tunnels, two bills are intended to make it more difficult for toll increases to get pushed through. SB3 would require approval by the General Assembly of any rate increase. HB40 would require public comment on proposed increases.
Another bill would modify the state’s speed camera law that permits their use in highway construction zones. SB57 would limit use of the devices in highway work zones for when workers are on the job.
A bipartisan bill package would raise $1.04 billion for transportation infrastructure.
The funding package of nearly 20 bills closely follows a plan outlined by Gov. Rick Snyder to lawmakers during the fall to address a $1.4 billion shortfall simply to maintain the current system.
One bill in the package – SB918 – would eliminate the state’s 19-cent gas tax and 15-cent diesel tax in favor of a new wholesale tax on fuel, which would result in a 28.3-cent tax rate.
Signed into law is a bill to allow the state to block driver’s license renewals for people who accumulate three or more unpaid parking tickets in the same community. Michigan law previously put the threshold at six.
SB130 is expected to give communities a shot in the arm for transportation funding.
HF1992/SF1687 would void indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. Affected contracts are 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.
All of the state’s 82 counties could soon be authorized to use radar on certain roads. SB2127 would authorize sheriffs to use the devices only on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of municipalities.
A Senate bill would get tough with anyone behind the wheel who does not stay to the right on highways. SB517 would boost $300 fines by a whopping $1,500 for failing to drive in the right-hand lane.
On the House side, HB1044 is intended to give consumers a heads-up when fuel prices are about to increase. Public notification would be required of any increase of at least 3 cents a minimum of 24 hours in advance of the increase taking effect.
Another bill is intended to help ensure that aspiring motorists have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their licenses to drive. The requirement already exists in Missouri for would-be truck drivers. HB1147 would require both portions of the examinations for personal licenses – written test and skill test – to be administered only in English. Applicants’ must also be able to understand traffic signs and signals written in English. In addition, translators would be prohibited.
HB1295 would mandate that towns provide at least one street for large trucks “to access any roads in the state highway system.”
HB1212 addresses livestock and agriculture haulers. Currently, livestock haulers on U.S. 36 from St. Joseph to U.S. 65 and U.S. 65 from the Iowa state line to U.S. 36 cannot exceed 85,500 lbs. The specified highways would be removed and the weight restriction would be applied to any vehicle hauling livestock or agricultural products on highways.
Under LB724, the state would be brought in line with federal rules on texting while driving truck. Offenders caught texting behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle would face $200 fines. Three points would also be added to licenses. In addition, violators would go under review for possible revocation of their CDL.
Also included in the bill are changes to commercial driver medical examination provisions.
Three bills would change tolling on the Everett Turnpike. Intended to catch area shoppers and catch drivers on their way to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, HB1369 would relocate the Bedford toll booth five miles south into Merrimack. In return, two Merrimack ramp booths would be removed. HB1192 would give Merrimack residents a discount on toll rates. HB1257 would eliminate the collection of tolls on all three ramps in Merrimack.
A bill in the House Transportation Committee – HB1374 – would make speeds in excess of 5 mph over the posted limit at toll booths a reckless driving violation. Offenders nabbed for their indiscretion would also face double fines.
Two bills cover truck issues. A1639 would authorize the Motor Vehicle Commission to issue permits for certain overweight trucks and charge a fee for such permits. Truck drivers would be allowed to operate or move a vehicle or combination of vehicles having a weight up to 107,000 pounds, where permissible. The special permit fees could not exceed $2,000.
A1443 would allow sheriff’s officers to weigh, measure and inspect commercial vehicles. They could also require truckers to take their rigs to weigh stations or other locations to be weighed, but only if officers have probable cause to believe trucks are in violation of state weight limits.
Another bill – S275 – would route one-third of motor vehicle fine revenue generated through tickets issued by the State Police to the municipality where the violations occurred. The other two-thirds would stay with the state. New Jersey law now makes available for the state’s general use all motor vehicle fines, penalty and forfeiture revenue generated through tickets issued by state troopers.
State law routes 100 percent of fuel excise tax revenue to the General Fund. HB49 would put 16.67 percent of net revenue to the Road Fund.
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.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law to bring Pennsylvania in line with federal rules on medical certification. HB1458 also boosts the fine from $25 to as much as $1,000 for out-of-state gravel haulers that fail to purchase a Class 20 license.
A legislative package identifies new revenue sources for highways, bridges and mass transit.
HB2099 would do away with a cap on the tax on wholesale fuel prices, and higher vehicle and driver registration fees.
HB2101 includes a requirement for driver registration renewals every two years instead of annual renewals. License renewals would also double from the current four years to eight years.
HB2112 would move $450 million annually from the Turnpike to transit.
A Senate bill – S2241 – would exclude trucks and trailers from paying excise tax as long as they are used more than 80 percent of the time in interstate commerce.
Two bills are intended to rein in use of tolls. H7130 would forbid the state from charging tolls to cross the Mount Hope Bridge.
H7036 would prohibit a toll from being charged for the replacement of the Sakonnet River Bridge. It would also bar the transfer of the still-unfinished bridge from the state DOT to the Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which could collect tolls.
One bill would require motorists and truckers to turn on interior lights if pulled over by police at night. H4631 would authorize $25 fines for failure to abide by the rule.
Two bills are halfway through the statehouse. HB1073 would outlaw provisions in motor carrier contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them “void and unenforceable.”
Affected contracts are defined as “a contract or agreement” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, including the storage of property.
HB1031 would establish a $10 license fee and a $10 renewal fee for motor carriers licensing under IFTA. Fees would also be setup for decals and mailing – $1.50 and $1, respectively.
Three bills address road safety topics. SB2470 would revise from 10,000 to 8,000 the size of municipalities that can enforce certain traffic violations on interstates within their jurisdictions.
HB2786 would mandate countdown timers to be installed at intersections outfitted with ticket cameras.
Exceeding the posted speed limit would no longer be necessary to warrant a ticket under certain conditions. HB2634 would prohibit vehicles from being driven “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent,” in bad road conditions.
One more bill – SB2602 – would narrow the language options on the state’s written portion of the driver’s license exam, including commercial licenses, from four to one.
Penalties for violating the state’s “move over” law could get stricter. HB317 would require offenders to attend a four-hour defensive driving course. Failure to attend could result in loss of driving privileges for 90 days.
The House voted unanimously to advance a bill that would require truck drivers to apply to the Virginia DMV for IFTA licenses and identification. HB353 would authorize DMV personnel to handle truck size and weight compliance at permanent weigh stations, as well as issue citations for IFTA violations.
A separate bill would authorize the town of St. Paul to regulate use of “Jake brakes” when operating vehicles within the town about 30 miles off I-81. HB846 would prohibit penalties for violations from exceeding cost for traffic infractions.
Dubbed “Troops to Trucks,” one more bill would require the DMV to consider applicants’ military training and experience in reviewing their eligibility to receive a Virginia CDL. HB194 would allow service personnel returning from duty to exchange their military CDL for a state-issued CDL without a written or a skills test.
Two bills on the move affect truck drivers. SB206 would require the Washington State Patrol, city police and county sheriffs’ deputies to take plates off trucks in operation while the vehicle registration is revoked, suspended, or canceled.
The authority to pull plates would apply to trucks and tractors. Law enforcement would be instructed to recycle or destroy plates on all vehicles in an affected fleet.
HB2476 would lengthen a heavy-haul corridor on State Route 509 near the Port of Tacoma from 3.63 miles to 5.45 miles to include the vicinity of Norpoint Way Northeast.
A push at the statehouse would lengthen from five to six years the time period between license renewal periods. Multiple bills would affect commercial and personal licensing.
In return, licensing fees for trucks would increase about $12 while car fees would be raised by $5. Expiration dates for hazmat endorsements would remain unchanged to remain in compliance with federal rules.
A House bill is intended to make traveling roads safer. HB2182 would mandate that travelers flip on their headlights when the windshield wipers are in use. LL