A Virginia lawmaker is taking a hard-line approach to truck drivers
caught with over-height vehicles at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.
Delegate Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, has introduced legislation that
targets offending truckers for consideration during a special session on
transportation that starts Wednesday, Sept. 27.
“My goal isn’t to penalize all the truckers. We’ve got to find a way to
penalize the bad apples,” Oder told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio.
Heftier fines and warning letters to trucking companies last year
helped briefly curtail incidents of too-tall trucks attempting passage in the
westbound tube on Interstate 64 near Norfolk, VA. In recent months, however,
wayward trucks have been making their way back on to the route, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The result
has been more congestion.
To address the issue, Oder is calling for getting tougher with problem
Virginia law calls for $500 fines and authorizes judges
to add three demerit points to a commercial driver’s license. It takes 18
demerits in one year to trigger a license suspension.
Oder initially sought a fine of $1,000 and $2,500 for a fourth violation. The House Courts of Justice Committee agreed to the $1,000 fine on the first offense. A second offense would bring a $2,500 fine. Violations would be considered a moving violation to ensure it is included on the trucker’s driving record.
Oder said while he believes the fines that took effect
in July 2005 work as a deterrent they just aren’t high enough.
“When the fines initially got enacted and they first started ending up
in the courtroom there was almost a 70 percent drop in the number of violators.
But through the course of the spring and into early summer it eventually creeped
back up to exactly where it was before we initiated the fines,” Oder said.
Signs have been posted on nearby Interstates 564 and 64, which merge to
form I-64, to inform truckers about the height restriction. In addition, fliers
have been posted at truck stops alerting truckers to the restrictions and the
penalties for violations.
If truckers fail to heed the warnings, a series of four over-height
sensors – one about one and three-quarters miles away from the tunnel entrance,
one at an inspection station three-quarters of a mile away, another at about a
quarter of a mile away, and a fourth close to the tunnel’s mouth – alert a
truck over 13 feet 6 inches tall if it attempts to pass.
Oder said that from May to mid-August, the Virginia
Department of Transportation stopped 1,400 trucks that sensors determined to be
close to or over the height restrictions. VDOT must stop traffic around the
bridge-tunnel an average of more than four times each business day because
truckers have ignored the warnings signals and approached the tunnel, he said.
The bill – HB5061 – is awaiting consideration on the House floor. If
approved, it would head to the Senate.