Trucking bills continue to advance in Louisiana

| Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trucking related issues recently have drawn a lot of discussion in the Louisiana Legislature. Several noteworthy bills are winding their way to Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s desk for her signature.

A bill offered by Rep. Mickey Guillory, D-Houma, would authorize the issuance of special permits for hauling specialized, heavy equipment on interstates.

The bill, which the House and Senate approved on unanimous votes, would affect heavy haulers up to 16 feet wide on interstates. The speed limit for such trucks would be 55 mph.

Under HB1190, special permits could be refused because of construction, highway or traffic conditions.

Another bill heading to the governor’s desk would increase the maximum width of trucks and loads operating under special logging equipment permits from 12 feet to 14 feet. The House and Senate unanimously approved it.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, the bill would affect trucks hauling two pieces of timber-cutting or logging equipment from one job site to another. The measure – HB1179 – would not increase the maximum allowable gross vehicle weight of 105,000 pounds.

The affected loads are not allowed on interstate highways.

Another bill – HB1212 – would add nails to the list of loose materials that must be secured on vehicles. The House passed it on a 77-10 vote. Senators followed up by approving it unanimously.

Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, told lawmakers that a growing problem in New Orleans and other hurricane-affected areas is flat tires caused by falling debris from trucks.

“We have a lot of loose materials, nails and what not, that are being discarded and falling off trucks on interstates and highways,” LaFonta said, adding that people in those areas are having flat tires “and it’s usually as a result of the nails.”

Existing state law requires loads including garbage and other discarded material and freight containers to be secured to avoid spilling or becoming loose, detached or presenting a safety hazard. Violators face a $500 fine and/or six months in jail.

Loose material now is defined as dirt, sand, gravel or “other materials capable of blowing or spilling from a vehicle other than natural agricultural products or wood chips.”

A companion LaFonta bill – HB1210 – would define nails as litter, along with gravel, sand, rubble, containers, disposable packages, can, bottles, furniture, garbage, appliances and building materials. The fines for littering depend on the amount of litter dumped and the intent of the person who discards it. A citation for littering could only be issued if a law enforcement officer witnessed the violation.

House lawmakers voted 70-16 in favor of the bill. The Senate approved it 34-0.

A bill that won unanimous support in the House and is awaiting final approval on the Senate floor would revise the safety inspection program for certain commercial motor vehicles.

Existing state law requires the state police to inspect and certify vehicles transporting general freight and commodities, as well as raw forest products. The department also is required to provide a mobile unit that functions as an official inspection station and conduct safety inspections, on a voluntary basis, at permanent weigh scales for general freight and commodities and at or near sawmills, chip mills and paper mills for raw forest products.

Sponsored by Rep. Donald Ray Kennard, R-Baton Rouge, the bill – HB1308 – would drop the requirement that the inspections be performed for vehicles transporting general freight and commodities on a regular – or quarterly – basis, and instead offer them only at the request of carriers at a date and time convenient for both the state police and the carrier.

A provision was taken out on the House floor that would have authorized the same change for vehicles transporting raw forest products.

A bill offered by House Speaker Joe Salter, D-Florien, would increase the fee for issuance of temporary permits that authorize trucks to be operated in Louisiana by out-of-state or out-of-country truck drivers that don’t have reciprocal agreements with the state.

Louisiana law now authorizes out-of-state truck drivers to travel on roads in the state without securing registration or license in Louisiana. The only requirement for travel is that the truck’s owner secures a temporary license and registration in the state.

The measure would double the fee for a temporary license and registration from $25 to $50. The bill – HB1175 – also would increase the authorized period of time for operation of affected trucks on Louisiana roadways from 48 straight hours to 72 straight hours.

Salter’s bill is in the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. The House already approved it 91-2.

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