Maryland bills cover APUs, tolls, speed cameras

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/3/2014

A bill halfway through the Maryland statehouse would boost the incentive for truckers to avoid idling. Other bills of note include efforts intended to make it more difficult to implement toll increases and to rein in the use of speed cameras.

The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the House that includes a provision that would increase the incentive to get truck drivers to stop idling.

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

In recent years many states have adopted rules to increase the weight limits for trucks equipped with auxiliary power units up to an additional 400 pounds.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 30 states have laws that authorize the weight allowance for commercial vehicles. There are 15 states where the weight allowance is granted by enforcement policy rather than by state law.

States yet to permit the 400-pound exemption are California, Hawaii, Kentucky, North Carolina and Rhode Island. The weight allowance doesn’t affect state highway funding eligibility.

The 2012 federal transportation law included a provision to allow states to increase their APU weight exemption another 150 pounds to 550 pounds. The change was sought to accommodate newer technologies available for truckers that consume less fuel, but weigh more.

Through the end of 2013, seven states have acted to authorize APU exemptions up to 550 pounds. The states are Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Maryland bill, SB72, would also increase the state’s 400-pound exemption to 550 pounds. It awaits further consideration in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Another bill in the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee would make sure that state lawmakers get the last word on any proposed toll increase.

Sponsored by Delegate Eric Bromwell, D-Baltimore, HB1382 would prohibit the Maryland Transportation Authority from changes that include toll increases, mileage rate ranges, pricing periods or toll zones with legislative approval.

A 2012 Maryland law already requires opportunities for public comment on proposed toll increases. Specifically, a 10-day public warning is required before any MTA discussion to increase tolls, fees or other charges. Additional time for public comment is required after the final meeting.

The public also gets a 10-day notice before any authority vote to increase tolls, fees or other charges. Also, an opportunity for public comment would be required at a meeting where a vote is expected.

Two bills from Delegate Frank Conaway, D-Baltimore City, would modify the state’s speed camera law.

In 2009, Maryland authorized speed cameras to be posted in highway construction zones where the speed limit is at least 45 mph. The enforcement tool is also authorized in school zones.

The first bill calls for limiting use of speed cameras in highway work zones in the Baltimore area for when workers are on the job. HB1425 would limit use of cameras in affected areas to the periods of one hour before work begins until one hour after work ends in the work zone.

A second bill, HB1396, would apply the rule statewide.

The bills are in the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.

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