Minnesota law includes engine brake ban among transportation provisions

| 5/30/2008

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has signed a transportation policy bill into law that includes several provisions of interest to truck drivers.

One portion of the lengthy bill – HF3800 – authorizes the city of Minneapolis to limit the use of engine brakes along a stretch of Interstate 394. City officials now have authority to restrict or prohibit engine brakes on the affected portion from the South Penn Avenue interchange east to the end of I-394.

Signage would be posted to alert truckers.

Another provision in the bill mandates that more vehicles be stopped for weighing and inspections. Vehicles weighing at least 10,000 pounds will be required to pull off. Existing state law requires vehicles weighing 12,000 pounds or more to stop.

The bill includes a couple of provisions that are intended to help make the state’s youngest motorists safer drivers.

An addition to the state’s driver’s education requirements soon could include instruction on how to drive safely around large trucks. Driver education programs offered at schools are authorized to focus on “awareness and safe interaction” with commercial motor vehicles.

Classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training would include lessons on truck stopping distances, proper distances for following trucks, identification of truck blind spots and how to avoid those blind spots.

In addition, new teen drivers cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. during the first six months they are licensed. Exceptions will be made for driving back and forth to school or work or if they are accompanied by an adult.

During that time, affected drivers also can’t drive with more than one teen passenger, unless they are relatives. For the second six months, they will be limited to three unrelated teens.

The new teen driving rules add Minnesota to the list of 46 other states that impose night-driving restrictions, passenger limits or both.

A separate provision adds road maintenance and construction vehicles to the list of personnel that state law requires motorists and truckers to maintain a safe distance from. The rule is designed to protect police and other emergency personnel during roadside stops.

Also included in the bill is a ban on all drivers from text messaging while at the wheel. Cell phone use is not restricted.

It will be a secondary offense to drive while typing, reading or sending text messages – meaning drivers would have to be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding, before they could be ticketed.

Passage of the bill makes Minnesota only the third state – New Jersey and Washington – to restrict all drivers from text messaging.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor