Multiple bills nearing passage at the Texas statehouse would open the door to local law enforcement authorities enforcing commercial vehicle safety standards.
Currently, the Texas Department of Public Safety is solely responsible for enforcing overweight rules. Certain exceptions are made for select counties. Overweight fines range from $100 to $10,000, depending on how many pounds the truck is overweight.
The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony on Wednesday, May 8, to expand the list of eligible counties to enforce truck rules.
Specifically, HB511 would authorize a sheriff or a deputy sheriff in Williamson County to apply for certification to enforce truck rules. The county is directly north of state capital, Austin.
The committee has voted to advance a separate bill, HB695, to further expand the list to include law enforcement officers in the city of Jacksonville.
Committee Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, is the bill’s Senate sponsor. He noted during the hearing there are three U.S. highways that intersect in his hometown.
Another bill to clear the committee, HB917, would permit certain police officers in the Permian Basin to become certified by the state to inspect trucks. In addition to greater enforcement efforts in West Texas, the bill includes a provision to include the South Texas locale of McMullen County.
Advocates say more truck enforcement is needed for the areas of high oil and gas production. They cite bridge crashes, overweight and overloaded trucks, and other safety issues.
Critics cite concerns about officers issuing an excessive number of citations. On certain occasions, they note that multiple citations are issued to the same truck on the same day.
The House Transportation Committee has voted to advance one more bill, SB636, to permit certain police officers in the city of Katy to enforce commercial vehicle standards for overweight trucks.
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, has pointed out the change would make police officers in the Harris County locale eligible to apply for certification to enforce overweight truck rules.
She said during previous discussion on the bill that truck traffic is using roadways in downtown Katy to avoid Interstate 10 congestion.
Advocates add that DPS officers simply do not have the resources to continually police downtown Katy.
Each of the bills have advanced from their originating chamber and await further consideration on the opposite chamber’s floor. HB511 remains in the Senate Transportation Committee.
The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that is intended to reduce overpass and bridge strikes from over-height large trucks. House lawmakers already approved the bill.
HB799 specifies that the owner of the vehicle would be strictly liable for any damage to a bridge or overpass caused by vehicle height. Drivers of the over-height vehicle also could be charged.
Violators would face misdemeanor charges. The charges could not exceed the cost of the damages.
“Like so many West Texans, I’m frustrated with how frequently overpasses in the Permian Basin are being struck,” Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, said in previous remarks about his bill. “These bridge strikes compromise highway safety, cause traffic congestion and cost taxpayers up to millions of dollars in repairs.”
Sen. Nichols added that in 2018 there were 82 overpass strikes occurred across the state of Texas. He referred to figures from the Texas Department of Transportation that show damages alone topped $20 million.
Despite the high dollar amount, less than $3.6 million of the cost of repairs has been collected from the drivers and companies responsible.
Landgraf said he is determined to reduce the number of collisions and hold the vehicle owners strictly liable for the cost of repairs.
The bill awaits consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would head to the governor’s desk.
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