Texas bills would revise certain truck weight, towing rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, March 23, 2017

Truck rules that cover vehicle weights and towing are among the issues working their way through the Texas statehouse.

The first bill would authorize an increase in truck weights for tractor-trailers hauling intermodal shipping containers.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, the bill would allow six-axle combinations with a gross vehicle weight up to 100,000 pounds. Seven-axle combinations would be permitted up to 93,000 pounds.

 

The loads would be subject to various axle configurations.

OOIDA has communicated to the bill sponsor the Association’s concerns about the legislation. The truckers’ group touts 17,322 members residing in Texas and thousands more who operate on the state’s highways each day.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, pointed out the increased vehicle weights would be subject to an annual permit fee of $5,000. He added that the loads would be prohibited on interstates, load-restricted roads or bridges, and other routes set by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The loads would also have to begin or end at a port-of-entry and could not exceed a 30-mile radius. In addition, the bill includes load-sealing instruction, a prohibition on transporting hazardous materials, requirements for permit sticker display and recordation, and provisions for compliance enforcement.

Matousek told Nichols the bill would “unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of the traveling public, provide certain business interests with a significant competitive advantage, and potentially create a number of enforcement challenges.”

The Association adds that trucks with higher gross vehicle weight allowances compromise margins of safety. They are also harder to handle and maneuver, and additional axles or different axle configurations will not entirely mitigate infrastructure damage.

OOIDA does not categorically oppose initiatives that improve productivity and efficiency, but Matousek said these initiatives should not come at the expense of public safety, the deterioration of roads and bridges, or the economic competitiveness of other segments of the trucking industry. Instead, he said the state should be more focused on addressing its structurally deficient bridges, the poor condition of public roads, and a backlog in highway maintenance and capital improvement projects.

The bill, SB1524, is in the Senate Transportation Committee. The House version, HB3854, awaits assignment to committee.

A separate bill addresses nonconsensual vehicle tows.

The Association says truckers are increasingly subjected to unreasonable charges from towing companies engaged in nonconsensual towing and recovery operations – in particular tows dispatched by police.

“By definition, a nonconsensual tow provides little, if any, opportunity for truck drivers involved in a roadside accident to shop for a towing company or negotiate rules,” Matousek said. “If not properly regulated, this can result in towing invoices that are inflated by tens of thousands of dollars.”

Sponsored by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, the bill would require the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to establish fees for nonconsensual tows.

HB2166 would also allow political subdivisions to regulate fees as long as such fees are authorized by commission rule and do not exceed the maximum amount authorized by the commission.

“This is a necessary first step to ensure that truckers are protected from unscrupulous towing operators in Texas,” Matousek said.

The bill is in the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee.

One more bill covers U.S. veterans who want to drive truck.

SB1768 would waive fees for an original CDL for a veteran of the armed forces who, within one year before the application, was honorably discharged.

The bill awaits assignment to committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

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