Missouri lawmakers OK truck lane restrictions, other provisions of note

| 5/19/2008

On the final day of the legislative session in Missouri, House and Senate lawmakers reached agreement on a lengthy bill that includes several provisions of interest to truck drivers. The measure – SB930 – now moves to Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk.

A conference committee made up of select members from both chambers endorsed legislation that would prohibit large trucks from traveling in the far left lane on certain roads through the metro areas of Kansas City and St. Louis.

Trucks with a registered gross weight in excess of 48,000 pounds would be prohibited from driving in the far left lane of “urbanized” roadways that have at least three lanes of traffic in each direction.

State law enacted a year ago already prohibits trucks heavier than 24,000 pounds from driving in the left-most lane of Interstate 70 within three miles of the intersection with state Route 370 in St. Charles County.

Advocates for keeping trucks out of the far left lane say it makes roadways safer for all travelers.

A Missouri-based truckers group with 160,000 members nationwide contends that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. An official with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said the group opposes lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

“Adopting lane restrictions is an ill-advised step to take,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Such restrictions invariably cause more problems than they fix.

“When you start restricting vehicles to certain lanes, you end up with more vehicles tailgating and making unsafe passing maneuvers in all lanes. This isn’t good for congestion or highway safety.

“Lane restrictions simply discourage smart, safe driving practices.”

Spencer said it’s regrettable that lawmakers saw fit to make the change.

“This is an example where politics trumped safety and common sense,” Spencer said.

In addition, Spencer pointed out that Missouri law already has restrictions to keep all traffic to the right except to pass.

Another provision of note attached to the bill is an incentive to reduce idling. The maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology would be increased. The bill would authorize affected trucks to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

The bill would also allow local enforcement of truck rules and prohibit certain indemnification agreements.

The procedure for conducting roadside inspections for large trucks also would be revised. A program would be set up to certify local law enforcement officers to enforce commercial motor vehicle laws.

Certified law enforcement officers could conduct random roadside examinations or inspections to determine compliance with the CMV weight and size limit laws. Officers who are not certified still could pull over large trucks if there was a “visible external safety defect.”

Indemnity agreements would be prohibited in motor carrier transportation contracts that claim “to indemnify a party against loss from negligence or intentional acts void and unenforceable.”

A separate provision in the bill is intended to keep repeat drunken drivers from driving drunk. In order to get back behind the wheel, ignition interlock devices would be required to be installed on repeat offenders’ vehicles.

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such a device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them, or that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor