Massachusetts bills make weight exception for APUs, tweak idling rule

| 10/6/2009

Trucking in Massachusetts is getting some attention at the statehouse as bills are drawing consideration to offer an incentive to reduce truck idling and modify the state’s idling restriction.

The Joint Committee on Transportation is looking at increasing the maximum gross vehicle, bridge formula, and axle weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. Sponsored by Rep. Theodore Speliotis, D-Danvers, the bill – H3334 – would authorize trucks equipped with auxiliary power units to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

Supporters say the weight exception removes the disincentive that otherwise would keep truckers from using APUs. They say a reduction of 400 pounds in cargo is a major loss in hauling potential and represents an economic disincentive for using these units.

States were granted federal authority in 2005 to allow heavy-duty trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound maximum weight limit to encourage the use of idling-reduction equipment.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long advocated adoption of the 400-pound exemption.

“It was the intent of Congress that the 400-pound exemption become law in all states,” Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist told Land Line. “The Association supports the exemption as reasonable because it’s another inducement to install an APU onto your truck.”

About 35 states already offer an incentive to reduce truck idling. States to add the provision this year include Arizona, Maine and Virginia. And a Florida lawmaker has prefiled a bill for consideration during the 2010 regular session to adopt the provision.

The Massachusetts transportation panel also is considering a bill that would modify the state’s idling rule. In most instances, drivers idling their trucks while sleeping or resting would be exempt from the rule.

Massachusetts law now limits idling to no more than five minutes per hour.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Kujawski, D-Webster, the bill – H3641 – includes a provision that is intended to limit idling while trucks wait to load or unload. Owners of locations served by trucks would be prohibited from causing vehicles to idle for more than 30 minutes while waiting to do business at the location.

The owner or operator of trucks, as well as the owners of locations served by trucks that are found to be in violation, would face fines of at least $100, while repeat offenders would face fines up to $500.

Rajkovacz is encouraged to see there is more recognition that truck drivers do not control all of the reasons they would have to idle. He said motor carriers, shippers and receivers also warrant scrutiny.

“People need to be held accountable for the positions they put drivers in. Only then will you get meaningful change in behavior,” Rajkovacz said. “Drivers cannot be singly the only ones responsible. It is everybody’s responsibility in the supply chain.”

Exceptions would be included for situations when vehicles are stuck in traffic, required by law enforcement to stop, or when idling is necessary to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners or other equipment “solely to prevent a safety or health emergency” that is not part of a rest period.

During rest periods and while waiting to load or unload, idling would be allowed for air conditioning or heating purposes.

The bill also specifies that use of auxiliary power units, gen sets or other idle-reduction technologies to provide heat, air or electrical power as an alternative to idling is not included in the restriction.

One other bill of interest is intended to give people a heads up when trucks are backing up. The measure – H3157 – would require that commercial vehicles or trailers weighing more than 7,500 pounds be fitted with an audible warning system.

Violators would face $100 fines.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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