Texas Legislature OKs deal to improve wait times at ports

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/5/2019

One step away from becoming law in Texas is a bill that covers wait times for certain loads at ports of entry.

House and Senate lawmakers have voted to advance to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk a bill that addresses the increase in trade traffic along the Texas-Mexico border. The bill is touted to aid perishable loads crossing into South Texas.

If signed into law, HB2155 would reauthorize a grant program for nonprofits to reduce wait times for agricultural inspections at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. A 2015 grant approved by the Texas Legislature provided $625,000 to help eliminate backups.

Specifically, this year’s legislation calls for allowing local governments to help pay for overtime and/or increased agricultural inspectors at international bridges during peak times. The total amount of grants awarded could not exceed $725,000 for the next two years.

The Texas Department of Agriculture would be responsible for monitoring and contracting the grant recipients to ensure compliance with state laws.

During a recent 12-month period more than 170,000 truckloads of produce crossed into Texas from Mexico. Advocates say the number will continue to grow as the Mazatlan-Matamoros superhighway transports more fresh produce from the western Mexico coast along the Texas border.

Due to staffing shortages at the state’s ports of entry, Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, has said trucks transporting produce experience long periods of delay or do not make it through the inspection process. As a result, the shelf life is lowered which hurts the bottom line for Texas importers.

Guerra also said that investing in the produce import industry is imperative for Texas.

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in recent remarks his agency will get the money “where it needs to go.” He highlighted border cities that include McAllen and El Paso “to get this backlog cleared.”

If approved, the program would be implemented on Sept. 1. It would need to be renewed in two years.

Oversize and overweight vehicles

Gov. Greg Abbott has already signed into law a bill that is intended to improve safety on roadways.
Previously HB105, the new law requires the state to include information about oversize and overweight vehicles in the curriculum of driver education and driving safety courses.

Advocates say concerns have been raised that drivers are not adequately trained to safely operate vehicles around oversize and overweight loads. They point out the lack of training contributes to the number of incidents involving large trucks.

Specifically, the new law calls for including methods of safely operating a vehicle near an oversize and overweight vehicle. Information would also be included about safe following distances and safe passing methods.

The new rule takes effect on Sept. 1.

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




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