Illinois lawmakers advance bills covering truck tows, HOS violations

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/15/2015

Multiple bills on the move at the Illinois statehouse cover issues of interest to truckers. One legislative push would put limits in place on nonconsensual tows of large trucks.

The Senate has voted unanimously to advance a rule change that would prohibit towers from removing a commercial vehicle under the vehicle’s own power without authorization from law enforcement.

The vote marks the third time in as many years the chamber voted in favor of the change; however, the previous two attempts failed to get much attention in the House.

Sponsored by Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, the bill would forbid “towing” a truck by operating the vehicle under its own power as opposed to physically hauling the vehicle away unless police authorize moving the vehicle.

Sullivan has said the protection is needed to address use of a master key to start up and move vehicles without authorization from the truck driver, or company.

“It raises liability concerns about whether tow company drivers are qualified to get behind the wheel of a large vehicle,” Sullivan previously told Land Line. “My legislation says you cannot use a master key to move a vehicle unless you have permission from law enforcement.”

The bill, SB674, is in the House Rules Committee.

A separate issue of interest would allow truckers with Illinois base plates to keep more money in their pockets.

Two bills pursue a rule change that would repeal collection of the commercial distribution fee for trucks in the state. The amount is a 14.35 percent surcharge of the annual registration fees.

For truck registrations of 80,000 pounds, truckers are required to chip in another $400 to cover the CDF. On top of the nearly $2,800 they already pay for base plates, truckers pay about $3,200 a year to tag their trucks in the state.

Truckers say the fee amounts to a tax on a tax.

The bills, SB662 and SB1691, remain in Senate committees.

Another bill awaiting a Senate floor vote addresses concerns about hours-of-service violations. Sponsored by Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, SB1582 would upgrade the offense of “willfully” exceeding allowable hours behind the wheel.

Violations that result in serious injury or death to another person would be upgraded from a Class 4 felony to a Class 3 felony. As a result, offenders would face up to five years in prison – up from a maximum of three years behind bars.

“Any person other than the driver” who willfully violates regulations pertaining to HOS rules would face a Class 2 felony. The offense could result in up to seven years in prison if a violation results in serious injury or death to another person.

House lawmakers voted 85-23 to send a bill to the Senate that would substantially increase the penalties for truck drivers who injure or kill someone because they willingly violated hours-of-service rules. HB1516 is in the Senate Criminal Law Committee.

The offense would become a more serious, Class 2 felony – punishable by three to seven years in prison and up to $25,000 fines – for incidents that result in death. Incidents that result in severe injuries to others would be a Class 3 felony – punishable by two to five years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

On Jan. 27, 2014, an Illinois Tollway Authority worker was killed and a state trooper critically injured when they were struck on the shoulder of Interstate 88 near Aurora by truck driver Renato Velasquez who was charged with driving fatigued and altering his logbook.

One more legislative effort halfway through the statehouse urges the Illinois Department of Transportation to include healthy, Illinois-made snacks in rest area vending machines.

“This legislation will offer healthier snacking options to travelers, while giving us the chance to showcase our Illinois products,” Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, said in a recent news release.

House Joint Resolution 29 would encourage IDOT to stock at least three snacks containing less than 220 calories for every 10 snacks that are offered in vending machines. Two of the three healthy snacks would need to be made in the state.

Illinois operates 30 rest areas and 11 welcome centers along roadways.

“Anyone who has done much traveling knows how hard it can be to eat healthy while on the road.”

House lawmakers voted unanimously to advance the resolution to the Senate for further consideration.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois, click here.

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