New Jersey bills focus on truck inspections

| 8/5/2008

The topic of trucking has been an item of interest this year in the New Jersey statehouse. Multiple measures offered there address truck inspections.

Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, introduced a bill this spring that would authorize “appropriately trained” local law enforcement officers to inspect trucks.

Officers would be authorized to conduct random roadside inspections of vehicles and combinations of vehicles to determine whether they meet the legal weights and measures restrictions. Trained officers also would be authorized to conduct inspections and break cargo seals of vehicles carrying hazardous materials, as well as conduct roadside emissions inspections.

Another bill offered by Turner would establish a pilot program in the Department of Law and Public Safety to use infrared sensors for the inspection of commercial motor vehicles. The program would be used in the roadside safety inspection of trucks conducted by the State Police.

Implementation of the two-year program would occur only to the extent that federal funding is available to support it.

A separate bill would clarify the authority of certain sheriff’s officers to enforce motor vehicle and traffic laws. Sponsored by Assemblyman Frederick Scalera, D-Nutley, the measure would provide that sheriff’s officers who conduct road patrols and serve in counties with no county police departments have the authority to weigh and measure trucks as long as they are fully trained and certified. The county also would be required to provide all the necessary and appropriate equipment.

An Assembly bill would allow sheriffs to weigh, measure and inspect commercial vehicles.

State law now relegates weighing and inspections to the New Jersey State Police.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, the measure would allow sheriff’s officers to require truck drivers to take their rigs to weigh stations or other locations to be weighed, but only if officers have probable cause to believe trucks are in violation of state weight limits.

However, the State Police would retain the right, to “establish and operate locations for the measurement and weighing of vehicles.”

In addition, the State Police would keep the sole authority to conduct random roadside weight checks. A random roadside inspection could not be conducted if the truck has been stopped for a random roadside inspection anywhere in the U.S. within the previous 24 hours.

Assemblyman John Rooney, R-Emerson, is the sponsor of one more bill that would double penalties for large trucks that fail roadside emissions inspections. The measure would increase the fine for first-time violators from $700 to $1,400. A second or subsequent offense within one year of the previous violation would result in a $2,600 fine, up from $1,300.

If the truck’s owner can provide certification of repairs to the vehicle “that is satisfactory to the court and in compliance with emissions standards,” fines would be reduced.

The fine for first-time violators who provide proof of repairs would be $300, up from $150. Repeat offenders with proof of repairs would pay $1,000, up from $500.

Turner’s bills – S1404 and S875, respectively – are in the Senate Transportation Committee. Scalera’s bill – A923 – is in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. Gusciora’s bill – A792 – is in the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. Rooney’s bill – A2153 – is in the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor