Hearing set on bill requiring truck-stopping devices in California

| 6/20/2003

The California Senate Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing for July 1 on a bill that would require trucks based in the state to carry a device enabling police or carriers to stop the vehicles in traffic.

According to Howard Posner, a consultant for the Transportation Committee, AB575 is designed to keep certain hazardous materials out of the hands of terrorists. The measure passed the Assembly 67-7 on June 2.

Consideration of the measure is down to the wire. Policy committees in California must report out all bills by July 11. Since the Transportation Committee meets every other Tuesday, its only July dates are the 1st and 15th. The second date is past the deadline, but the committee might request an extension.

If the bill receives approval from the Senate committee, it would head to the full Senate for a vote. That could occur anytime before the end of the session in September.

The proposal has raised concerns among some in the trucking industry.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said “If you wanted to provide a blueprint for destruction to terrorists, this would be the way you would do it.”

 “We suggest state officials go back to the drawing board,” Spencer added. “This idea didn’t pass the laugh test when it was floated once before.”

Legislative officials had considered significant changes in the bill, but Posner said that did not happen.

“We gave that some more thought and decided, at least for the moment, to leave it as is,” Posner said. “There was talk of scaling it back so it only applied to gasoline tanker trucks in certain locations, but we decided that in order to maximize the benefit, we ought to have this being used essentially as outlined in the bill.”

The current text of AB575 covers trucks carrying poison or toxic gas; flammable and combustible liquid; poison or toxic material; infectious substances; or radioactive material.

The bill still requires every truck covered to have some kind of disconnect device – an external mechanism that could be activated by either law officers or the carrier that would either activate the brakes or cut off the fuel to the engine. However, the bill now leaves the type of technology that would be used to stop trucks up to the California Highway Patrol, rather than specifying technologies in the legislation.

“I was at a meeting over at the Highway Patrol about a week ago, and they’re going to be testing all sorts of different technologies,” Posner said. “We decided whatever works; we don’t want to preclude any emerging technologies from being used.”

Early on, officials indicated those devices could include one that attaches to the rear bumper of a truck that would be activated by a police car tapping the trucks rear bumper. Another would require law officers to carry a laser device that would “tag” a receiver on the truck, deactivating the vehicle’s fuel supply.

The Highway Patrol conducted tests of the bumper-tapping device earlier. A video of that test is available on the Patrol’s Web site at http://www.chp.ca.gov/html/truckstoppingdevice.html

AB575 also requires each truck have a GPS tracking device that would allow the carrier to locate the truck’s at any time.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mreddig@landlinemag.com.