California truck-stopping bill now on the calendar for next year

| Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A bill would require California trucks to carry a device to enable police or carriers to stop the vehicles while in motion will not be considered until 2004.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-2 in early July against the measure, effectively killing it for the rest of this year, a spokeswoman for the committee said. The Assembly approved the bill June 3.

Howard Posner, a consultant with California's Assembly Transportation Committee, told Land Line the bill would be carried over into the new session of the General Assembly that begins in January of 2004.

The backers of AB575 said the bill was designed to keep hazardous materials out of the hands of terrorists.

It would have required trucks carrying flammable materials, radiological isotopes and a list of other hazardous materials to have some kind of disconnect device – an external mechanism that would either activate the brakes or cut off the fuel to the engine. The device would have to be built in a way that would allow Highway Patrol officers to activate it from the outside of the truck. AB575 also contained a requirement for GPS tracking devices that would allow carriers to find a truck’s location at any time.

After the bill was defeated in committee, its sponsors made several changes, Posner said. For example, the definition of GPS was modified in the bill, so any kind of tracking system could be used.

In addition, the list of truck stopping devices that are acceptable under the bill was expanded.

“If there were some hijack-deterrent technology that the Highway Patrol deems to be at least as effective as remote stopping, that that would be acceptable as well,” Posner said. “We’re just trying to make it as broad as possible.”

The Highway Patrol will make the call as to what types of technologies will be acceptable. The law-enforcement agency is “testing various remote-stopping technologies,” Posner said.

As the process of refining the bill moves forward, he said, California officials plan to consult with people in the trucking industry about the bill and the technologies that might be involved.

When the bill first came to light, it raised concerns in the industry. Especially of concern was the thought that a terrorist could use the very device intended to stop them and instead take control of the truck.

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

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

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

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