Missouri bills tackle trucking-related issues

| 5/22/2006

The Missouri House approved a bill on the final day of its legislative session that would allow the state’s Highway Commission to revoke licenses and registrations of motor carriers in certain circumstances. The bill also addresses concerns about unskilled truck drivers on roads in the state.

The bill – SB1001 – now heads to Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk.

On May 12, House lawmakers voted 147-2 to sign off on a compromise version of a bill that would authorize the state to suspend, revoke or cancel the registration, license, permit or other credentials issued to motor carriers if a federal agency or the state commission has issued an out-of-service order against the motor carrier.

The rule would be applicable to out-of-service orders placing a motor carrier’s entire operation out of service. It would not apply to out-of-service orders placing an individual driver or vehicle out of service.

Affected motor carriers would be prohibited from operating any commercial motor vehicle and could not allow employees to operate commercial motor vehicles in intrastate or interstate commerce.

The motor carrier would be forced to surrender all license plates, motor carrier licenses, registrations, permits and other credentials.

After an order has been issued, out-of-state motor carriers would not be eligible to apply for the issuance or reinstatement of any license, registration, permit, certificate or other credentials until the out-of-service order has been rescinded or “the orders have been set aside by a court of proper jurisdiction.”

A provision added to the bill is intended to eliminate the worst of the third-party testing facilities in the state. The change was made in response to allegations that a third-party CDL testing facility in West Plains, MO, accepted money in exchange for passing grades. The testing facility is run by a school district.

Third-party tester certification would be limited to junior colleges or community colleges, or to private companies that own, lease or maintain their own fleet and administer in-house testing to their employees or school districts and their agents that administer in-house testing to the school district’s or agent’s employees.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri is sending out letters to 600 drivers who were tested at the West Plains facility ordering them to re-take the driving portions of their exams. Neither the Highway Patrol nor the Missouri Department of Revenue could confirm that number for Land Line.

This is the second such investigation to come to light in Missouri in recent weeks. Another third party tester in Sikeston, MO, has been under investigation on similar charges since 2005. In that case, the Department of Revenue is in the process of issuing letters to 2,200 drivers – in Missouri and other states – to re-take the driving portion of their CDL exams or surrender their licenses.

Other trucking-related bills go down in defeat
While lawmakers were able to reach agreement on the out-of service/third-party tester legislation, several more trucking-related bills that drew consideration this year failed to win passage.

Lawmakers failed to approve a bill that included several truck-related provisions. The bill – SB969 – was awaiting a final vote on the House floor when the session ended. The Senate approved an earlier version of the measure.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the bill would have increased the maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit for large trucks equipped with idle reduction technology. It would have authorized affected trucks to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

Similar language was added to the U.S. Code last year as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005; however, the Federal Highway Administration is allowing each state to decide if they will adopt the provision. Click here to read additional Land Line coverage on this topic.

The bill also would have prohibited the expungement of records for commercial driver’s license holders convicted of or who pled guilty to an offense where the person’s blood alcohol content is 0.04 or above.

Stouffer’s bill also would have authorized the commercial vehicle inspectors to make arrests for commercial motor vehicle violations. It would have required inspectors to complete proper training.

In addition, it also expanded the distance local logging trucks could operate. It would have increased the radius of operation from 50 miles to 100 miles.

Another failed bill would have made rest areas throughout the state off-limits to all travelers – except truck drivers.

Sponsored by Sen. Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield, the bill sought to require the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to ban from rest areas all vehicles except commercial motor vehicles and truck-tractors or truck-tractor combinations. It would also have prohibited the construction of new rest areas.

The bill – SB1126 – remained in the Senate Transportation Committee when the session ended.

A spokesman for Clemens said the bill was designed to force the Missouri Department of Transportation to address a plan that will add 10 “tourist information centers” during the next decade. It has not yet been determined if the state will keep the existing rest areas open or close them after the new centers are built.

Another trucking bill that sought to clarify that an owner-operator leased to a trucking company is not an employee for purposes of unemployment compensation has died. Also sponsored by Clemens, the bill – SB755 – never came up for consideration before the full Senate.

The House and Senate weren’t able to agree on wording in a bill that originally sought to clarify the common carrier sales tax exemption for the purchase of motor vehicles – with a gross weight of 24,000 pounds or more – or trailers. Missouri law now applies the exemption only if the common carrier operates solely in interstate commerce.

SB696, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, initially called for making the exemption applicable to both intrastate and interstate commerce. The bill also would have exempted contractors from paying sales taxes on materials used in Department of Transportation projects after June 30, 2007.

A bill remained in the House Transportation Committee that would have allowed common carriers of household goods to file applications to the State Highways and Transportation Commission for approval of rates to reflect increases and decreases in the carrier’s costs. The Senate previously passed it.

Sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, the bill – SB1027 – also would have repealed “the exemption that currently allows household goods movers to operate wholly in municipalities, between contiguous municipalities, or commercial zones” without having to obtain operating authority from MoDOT. Currently, household movers are exempt from the rules and regulations if their operations are restricted to those described areas.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor