Gov. Tim Kaine signed a bill into law Tuesday, Oct. 10, that will have
truck drivers caught with over-height vehicles at the Hampton Roads
Bridge-Tunnel digging a lot deeper into their pockets.
Sponsored by Delegate Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, the bill – HB5061 –
was approved by legislators during a two-day special session on transportation
that wrapped up Sept. 28. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2007.
“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 prior
to the bill being signed into law.
Heftier fines and warning letters to trucking companies last year
helped briefly curtail incidents of too-tall trucks attempting passage in the
westbound tube along Interstate 64 near Norfolk, VA. The fines were $85, but
increased to $500 in July 2005.
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 offered the bill to get tougher with problem
In addition to the $500 fines, Virginia law 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.
The new law doubles to $1,000 the fine for truckers who ignore height
restrictions. Subsequent offenses will result in $2,500 fines. Violations will
be considered a moving violation to ensure it is included on the trucker’s
Oder said while he believes the fines that took effect a
year ago work as a deterrent they just aren’t high enough to solve the problem.
“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 creped
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.
Another bill signed into law by the governor encourages the state to
look into partnering with private groups.
The new law, previously HB5064, makes the Commonwealth Transportation
Board responsible for promoting increasing private investment in Virginia’s transportation infrastructure, including but not limited to acquisition of
causeways, bridges, tunnels, highways, and other transportation facilities.