Truck-related legislation considered in Montana

| 3/6/2007

Several bills of interest to the trucking industry have drawn consideration this year in the Montana Legislature. Among the efforts still before lawmakers is a bill that would generate additional revenue for the state's roadways.

Sponsored by Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena, the bill is intended to help ensure the state is in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. It would prohibit deferred prosecution or deferred judgments in traffic cases involving commercial drivers.

The bill - HB180 - would prohibit commercial drivers convicted of a traffic offense, even if it occurred in a personal vehicle, from being eligible to keep their driving records clean by completing a driver safety course.

Compliance with the regulation would put the state in line to receive additional federal highway dollars.

Another provision in the bill would increase application fees for driver's licenses, instruction permits and identification cards. Fees would increase between $5 and $10.

According to an analysis on the bill, more than $10 million would be generated during the next four years for the state's general fund.

The bill also would prohibit Social Security numbers from being displayed on driver's licenses and identification issued in the state.

It is in the House Judiciary Committee.

A separate bill is likely dead that would have required drivers to prove proficiency in English before receiving a license.

Sponsored by Rep. Dennis Himmelberger, R-Billings, the bill - HB549 - would have required examiners to determine if applicants need proficiency tests. Interpreters would still have been allowed to assist applicants.

An analysis of the bill said the proficiency test would determine applicants "ability to red directional and safety road signs and to follow instructions of peace officers and emergency personnel."

Examiners would also have determined applicants' citizenship and note their home country on the license.

Himmelberger's bill was awaiting a final vote on the House floor at the deadline for "general bills" to advance from the chamber.

Another failed bill - HB646 - would have required testing for driver's licenses to be offered only in English. Sponsored by Rep. Edward Butcher, R-Winifred, the bill would have applied to all forms of driver's licenses, including commercial driver's licenses.

One other bill of note that remains active would eliminate the requirement that pole trailers hauling logs be equipped with wrappers made of steel chain, steel cable, or a combination of the two.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill - SB422. It has been forwarded to the House where it is awaiting assignment to committee.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor