By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
The House voted to advance a bill to the Senate to improve fairness for truck drivers doing business in the state. HB339 would do away with indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.
Two more House bills are of interest. HB429 would give police in cities with fewer than 19,000 residents the authority to ticket speeders on interstates. Speed enforcement would also be allowed for all police departments on roads outside of city limits but within their jurisdictions.
HB221 is intended to ward off the implementation of a red-light camera program in the city of Tuscaloosa. The bill would prohibit municipalities from approving the use of cameras and would repeal any existing ordinances authorizing their use.
The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance legislation to amend the Alaska Constitution to create a dedicated transportation fund. Voters would get the final say.
HJR4 would rely on a one-time $1 billion appropriation that must be approved in separate legislation. Also routed to the fund would be half of the transportation related fees such as Department of Motor Vehicle collections and fuel tax revenue.
An Assembly bill would mandate that CARB change smoke testing requirements to exempt trucks with 2007 and newer model-year engines. In 2023, AB1922 would no longer require all affected trucks to undergo smoke tests.
Another Assembly bill would reduce the base fine on “rolling right turn” tickets from $100 to $35. Another provision in AB2128 would add one second to the state-established minimum time for yellow lights outfitted with ticket cameras.
Awaiting consideration on the Senate floor is a House-approved bill to 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. HB1019 would allow the DOR to retain CDL licensing and the IRP.
A new law strips authority from towns to set speed limits on state highways that run through city limits. Instead, H619 gives power to set speed limits on highways to the Idaho Transportation Department.
To avoid excessive fees for truckers to access local roads, SB3516 would require local jurisdictions to adopt the state schedule for overweight permits.
The House voted to send to the Senate a bill to outlaw truckers’ use of text messaging devices while at the wheel. HB5101 would also include a ban on the use of hand-held phones. Violations would be considered a “serious traffic violation.”
A Senate-approved bill would require minimum yellow light change intervals to be set in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards. Federal guidelines specify times somewhere between three and six seconds – depending on such factors as the grade of the road and the speed limit. SB3504 would also require municipalities to add an additional second to the yellow time.
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed one bill of note. SB98 allows counties to spend property tax or other miscellaneous general fund revenue on highway maintenance.
One vote shy of moving to the governor’s desk is a bill to authorize police to charge double fines for speeding and other moving violations on such roadways as K-10 and U.S. 54. HB2432 would also prohibit offenses of exceeding the posted limit from being negotiated to keep violations off an offenders’ driving record.
On its way to the governor’s desk is a bill to authorize the city of Baltimore to use vehicle height monitoring systems to snap photos of trucks on restricted roadways. HB476 would authorize fines of up to $500.
Also headed to the governor is a bill that is intended to make it more difficult for toll increases to get pushed through. SB820 would mandate a 90-day notice before any Transportation Authority vote to increase tolls, fees or other charges. The authority would also be required to take public comment at the meeting when a vote is expected.
Signed into law is a bill to void indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. HF1992 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.
Two bills have completely different takes on transportation funding.
SB752 would authorize MODOT to partner with a private group to pay for improvements along Interstate 70. In exchange, the private company would get to charge tolls.
HB1874 would eliminate the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon excise tax applied to gasoline. The state’s tax on diesel would be increased by a dime to 27 cents. In exchange, the state’s sales tax would be relied on for road and bridge funding.
The bill would apply a 0.07 percent sales tax on gas purchases and add 0.07 percent to the state’s general sales tax rate. All revenue would be routed directly to transportation.
If approved by lawmakers, voters would get the final say.
Gov. Chris Christie could soon sign into law a bill to boost the maximum penalty for driving recklessly to five years in prison – up from 18 months in current law. Offenders would also face up to $15,000 fines – up from $10,000. Under S1468, offenses that could result in stiffer punishment include sudden changes in speed, erratic and improper lane changes, or following too closely.
A bad bill in the Senate Labor Committee would classify owner-operator truck drivers as company employees because they do the same thing as company drivers. S6267 would cover all owner-operators. The Assembly version of the bill – A8997 – is in the Assembly Labor Committee.
In the Senate is a bill that targets hidden compartments in vehicles, including large trucks and trailers. SB305 specifies that vehicles found to include hidden compartments, with or without drugs, could result in severe consequences for the person behind
the wheel, and the owner. Offenders could face up to 18 months in jail and $5,000 fines. For more information, see Page 15.
House lawmakers voted to advance to the Senate a bill to set up a framework for deals with private groups to help get work done on transportation infrastructure. HB3 would exclude handing over the Pennsylvania Turnpike, unless the Legislature approves it. If the bill is approved, a seven-member board would be created to review toll proposals.
The House also sent to the Senate a bill to authorize $49.5 million to fix or replace bridges that were damaged or destroyed by flood waters that resulted last summer from either Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee. HB1915 would route revenue to pay for the work from the state’s motor license fund. Federal disaster-aid money would be supplemented.
The Senate advanced a bill to the House that is intended to increase transparency at the state DOT. S1007 would make SCDOT responsible for posting online a running register of financial transactions.
Starting July 1, a new law forbids 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.”
HB1073 addresses contracts or agreements 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.
Also effective July 1 is a law that establishes a $10 license fee and a $10 renewal fee for motor carriers licensing under IFTA. HB1031 also sets fees for decals and mailing at $1.50 and $1, respectively.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a bill to authorize the state DOT to issue permits to certain qualified vehicles that exceed the length limitations for travel at night on interstates, state highways, or “the shortest reasonable route to and from such highways.” SB2650 would apply to tractor trailers up to 85 feet.
A new law puts limits on idling ordinances enacted by local governments. HB104 requires three warning citations to be doled out before a ticket can be issued. Fines could only be structured the same as a parking violation. Any ordinance could only be enforced on private property that is accessible to the public, such as parking lots. Private driveways would be off limits for idling enforcement.
Another new law stiffens penalties for violating the state’s “move over” law. Previously HB317, the new law requires offenders to attend a four-hour live classroom defensive driving course. Failure to attend could result in loss of driving privileges for 90 days.
Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill to require truck drivers to apply to the Virginia DMV for IFTA licenses and identification. Starting July 1, HB353 authorizes DMV personnel to handle truck size and weight compliance at permanent weigh stations, as well as issue citations for IFTA violations.
Another new law addresses sand, gravel, and crushed stone hauls. SB335 extends the temporary increased weight limit for such loads in coal counties to January 2013.
Dubbed “Troops to Trucks,” one more new law requires the DMV to consider applicants’ military training and experience in reviewing their eligibility to receive a Virginia CDL. HB194 allows service personnel returning from duty to exchange their military CDL for a state-issued CDL without the need for a written or a skills test.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law two bills of note. HB2459 authorizes law enforcement to confiscate license plates from motor carriers that disregard out-of-service orders. It takes effect June 7.
SB5188 requires communities with ticket cameras to prepare annual reports on how many crashes occur in intersections rigged with the devices and how many tickets are issued for each camera. Also included is a requirement for yellow-light times to match federal standards.
A new law permits motorists to surpass the speed limit by as much as 10 mph in order to overtake trucks and other vehicles traveling below the posted speed on two-lane roads. Starting July 1, the leeway will apply only to roads with speed limits of at least 50 mph. Passing motorists are required to return to the right-hand lane and slow to the posted limit as soon as possible.