Alabama OKs bill exempting farm trucks from federal regs

| 6/19/2007

Gov. Bob Riley signed a bill into law in Alabama to exempt farm trucks from some federal safety regulations. The change could cause the state to miss out on some federal funds.

House lawmakers voted 91-3 to approve the exemption bill after the Senate approved it by unanimous consent. The new law, previously HB432, exempts mostly farm vehicles up to 13 tons that operate solely within the state from some federal motor carrier safety regulations, including the number of hours drivers may be at the wheel. It also exempts affected drivers from physical exams.

The state adopted the federal registration of intrastate trucks two decades ago. But the tracking system was never implemented because of budget constraints, The Birmingham News reported.

The new law also provides that the state’s planting and harvesting season be all year.

As introduced, the bill sought to include in the exemption many types of non-farm trucks, including gravel, log, garbage and construction haulers.

The proposal drew the attention of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Officials with the agency warned the changes would make the state’s rules incompatible with federal law. The result could be the loss of $4.4 million annually in federal funding for truck enforcement in the state.

Others say the changes originally included in the bill would lead to more roadway deaths. About 13 percent of the state’s fatal truck crashes in 2005 involved vehicles within the range that were included in the exemption, the News reported.

In an attempt to ease concerns about the bill intended to aid small farmers who rarely use such vehicles on public roadways, advocates tweaked the bill to allow the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House to change the legislation if federal funding is threatened.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor