Texas bill would allow idling

| 3/24/2005

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 rest period.

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 available.”