A Texas House panel has approved a
bill that would allow truckers for the next two years to idle their rigs for
government-mandated rest periods.
The House Environmental Regulation
Committee voted 7-0 March 29 in favor of 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.
The bill – HB1540 – now makes a
stop in the House Calendars Committee on its way to the full House.
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 his 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.
Bonnen’s bill would not change
An amendment offered by Bonnen,
R-Angleton, and approved by the panel would add a two-year sunset to the
measure to correspond with stringent diesel emission reductions slated to start
in September of 2007.
Despite Bonnen’s call to sunset
the bill in two years, he said the issue is still important “because we must
ensure truckers are able to make their mandatory rest required by federal and
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.”
Two days after the panel’s
favorable decision on idling, a contractor’s idling semi was identified as the
possible cause of a refinery blast March 23 in Texas City, TX.
According to The Associated
Press, the truck may have sucked in a hydrocarbon liquid and vapor cloud,
sparking a fiery explosion that killed 15 and injured more than 100 at British
Petroleum’s Texas facility.
Investigators are in the process
of recovering the truck engine to determine whether it was an ignition source
for the liquid and vapor release from a nearby vent.
“There are multiple possible
sources of ignition in an operating refinery unit, and we have made no
determination about the ignition source at this time,” Bill Hoyle, manager of
the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, told The AP.