Oklahoma sues to keep truck tag fees coming in

| Friday, December 20, 2002

Oklahoma has raised the stakes in the battle over base plating, filing suit against the administrator of the International Registration Plan Inc. to block sanctions against the state, The Oklahoma City Oklahoman reported Dec. 20.

The lawsuit, which will be heard before a federal judge in Oklahoma City, was filed to protect more than $16 million in fees the state would lose if the sanctions were put into place, the newspaper reported. Officials of the Oklahoma Tax Commission started the action after being notified other states and all 10 Canadian provinces would withhold truck fees from the state - which fund state government and schools in Oklahoma - after the first of the year.

In April, the IRP's Dispute Resolution Committee ruled that Oklahoma had cheated Illinois out of trucker fees by looking the other way when agents hired by truckers filed false mileage projections to get their clients cheaper tags, Land Line reported in November. The two states were given until November to try to reach a settlement, but the IRP says Oklahoma failed to reach an agreement with Illinois by that date.

The IRP had told Oklahoma that if the state can't prove compliance, other states and provinces would stop sending fees Feb. 7.

Illinois isn't the only state complaining about fiscal losses to the Sooner state. A number of financially strapped states are unhappy over losing money to Oklahoma. They're particularly peeved over Oklahoma's bogus mileages and the scandal within the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Already, reports have come in that some states are citing Oklahoma base-plated trucks, calling them illegally tagged. Alabama is reportedly ticketing trucks that officials there think are improperly registered in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma officials say losing the truck tag fees or facing a potentially large judgment would be devastating to the state, The Oklahoman reported, which is already facing budget shortfalls and layoffs.

Oklahoma wants the court to force the other states to keep paying the fees and to declare the IRP's sanctions invalid.

New Jersey could require cross-view mirrors

Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature have approved a bill that requires backup mirrors or monitoring devices on most delivery trucks and vans.

To reduce the number of fatalities and injuries attributable to "backing accidents," SB377 requires either a convex-shaped, rear cross-view mirror or an electronic rear backup monitoring device on commercial delivery vans and trucks with a cube-style, walk-in cargo box up to 18 feet long. The mirror should be installed at the top left rear corner of the cargo box so the operator of the truck has an unobstructed view of the lower six feet of the entire rear width of the truck body. A rear cross-view mirror costs about $50, according to the bill.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates up to 130 of those killed each year in backing accidents are children. The Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans' Affairs Committee reported that Federal Express has experienced a 36 percent reduction in backing accidents since installing rear cross-view mirrors on its delivery vans.

Passed by both houses Nov. 18, the bill currently sits on Gov. James McGreevey's desk. The bill would take effect about four months after being signed by the governor.

--By Rene Tankersley, feature editor

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