Trucking bills approved in Louisiana

| Thursday, June 22, 2006

Trucking-related issues recently have drawn a lot of discussion in the Louisiana Legislature. Several noteworthy bills have been signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

One bill signed into law authorizes the issuance of special permits for hauling specialized, heavy equipment on interstates.

The new law, previously HB1190, affects heavy haulers up to 16 feet wide on interstates. The speed limit for such trucks will be 55 mph.

Special permits could be refused because of construction, highway or traffic conditions.

Another bill signed into law increases the maximum width of trucks and loads operating under special logging equipment permits from 12 feet to 14 feet.

The new law, previously HB1179, affects trucks hauling two pieces of timber-cutting or logging equipment from one job site to another. It does not increase the maximum allowable gross vehicle weight of 105,000 pounds.

The affected loads are not allowed on interstate highways.

Another new law, previously HB1212, adds nails to the list of loose materials that must be secured on vehicles.

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.

Other loose materials are 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 similar bill – HB1210 – signed into law defines 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.

One other bill signed into law revises 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.

The new law, previously HB1308, drops the requirement that the inspections be performed for vehicles transporting general freight and commodities on a regular – or quarterly – basis, and instead offers 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.

The new laws take effect Aug. 15.

A bill still awaiting Blanco's signature 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.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill. House lawmakers signed off on a change to the bill in a 94-1 vote, which cleared the way for the bill to move to the governor's desk.

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 Senate removed a provision in the bill – HB1175 – that would have increased the authorized period of time for operation of affected trucks on Louisiana roadways from 48 straight hours to 72 straight hours.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor