A bill before a Texas House panel would allow truckers to
idle their rigs for government-mandated rest periods.
The House Environmental Regulation Committee is reviewing a
bill that would prohibit and limit adoption or enforcement of rules that ban
trucks and other vehicles from idling when necessary to power a heater or air
conditioner while a driver is using the vehicle’s sleeper berth for a mandated
If approved by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry, the law
would override a recent Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ruling
permitting cities to opt into a rule that would outlaw any idling for more than
five minutes for any reason in a truck.
“Federal and state law requires 18-wheelers to pull over and
rest. It would be putting them in a very bad predicament to tell them they must
meet federal and state laws on the number of hours they can drive without
resting but then not allow them to take that rest without an air conditioning
running, which would usually be the case in Texas, and on rare occasions, the
heater running,” Dennis Bonnen, the environmental panel’s chairman, said during
a recent hearing on the bill. “That’s why idling would be necessary to work
with them on that.”
Current state law prohibits idling for longer than five
minutes from April 1 to Oct. 31 in Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston,
Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties.
HB1540 would not change that.
An amendment offered by Bonnen, R-Angleton, the bill’s
sponsor, would add a two-year sunset to the measure to correspond with
stringent diesel emission reductions starting in 2007.
“The substitute would allow the prohibition on restricting
idling to disappear in two years … because by Sept. 1, 2007, national idling
rules are expected to be in place to address idling issues,” Bonnen said during
the recent hearing.
Despite Bonnen’s call to repeal the language in two years,
he said the bill was still important “because we must ensure truckers are able
to make their mandatory rest required by federal and state law.”
He went on to say the bill “may also bridge the time until
new technologies to provide heat and cooling without idling are more readily