A new law that takes effect Monday, Jan. 1, will have truck
drivers caught with over-height vehicles at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
digging a lot deeper into their pockets.
The new law, previously HB5061, was approved by legislators
during a two-day special session on transportation that wrapped up in late
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.
By this summer, however, wayward trucks had been making
their way back on to the route, The
Virginian-Pilot reported. The result has been more congestion.
To address the issue, Delegate Glenn Oder, R-Newport News,
offered the bill to get tougher with problem trucks.
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 driving record.
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 told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio.
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 reportedly 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.