Several bills of interest to the trucking industry are
drawing consideration from lawmakers in both chambers of the Texas Legislature.
Among the bills of relevance that are advancing in the
Senate is a measure that is intended to curb unsafe trucking operations.
Currently, state law doesn't prohibit intrastate travel for motor carriers that
have been deemed unfit or unsafe for interstate travel by the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration.
Sponsored by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, the bill - SB332 -
would prohibit motor carriers from operating intrastate if the FMCSA has
prohibited them from operating in interstate commerce because of safety
concerns. It also would prohibit an employer from knowingly permitting a person
to drive such a vehicle if the employer is subject to an out-of-service order
affecting a driver or vehicle.
Violators to the proposed rules would face up to $2,000 in fines
and/or 180 days in jail.
Another bill authored by Carona would bring state law in
line with federal rules for saddlemounts. The rule was part of the 2005 federal
Highway Bill. The bill - SB331 - would change the maximum length for
saddlemount vehicle transporter combinations in the state from 75 feet to 97
Two more bills penned by Carona deal with cargo securement.
One bill - SB387 - would add refuse and aggregates to the
list of material that must be covered to prevent it from blowing or spilling
from trucks. State law now includes sand, gravel, dirt and wood chips under the
items that must be covered.
The bill also would delete a provision in state law that
exempts vehicles operated at speeds below 30 mph from the mandatory coverage
"That 30 mph exemption really doesn't serve much purpose
when, in fact, loose items continue to fly out of the truck," Carona told
lawmakers during a hearing on the bill.
In response to complaints received by the Texas Department
of Public Safety, the second bill is intended to remove a loophole to
enforcement of cargo securement rules. Under existing state law, it isn't a
violation to transport cargo that is not secure. A violation occurs only once a
load has blown, spilled or fallen from a vehicle.
The bill - SB327 - would allow haulers to be penalized for
failure to properly secure cargo before an incident occurs. Violators would
face up to $200 in fines.
A bill offered by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, relates
to the construction of cattle guards on county roads.
Texas law now only permits counties with populations of less
than 60,000 to construction cattle guards on county roads. The bill - SB66 -
would remove the population limit.
One other bill - HB1184 - would get tougher with trains that
Sponsored by Rep. Tracy King, D-Eagle Pass, the bill would
lower from 10 minutes to 5 minutes the amount of time streets, railroad
crossings or highways can be blocked by trains. It also would increase fines
for obstructing a railroad crossing with a train from as much as $300 to
$1,000. If the obstruction continues beyond 10 minutes an additional $1,000
fine would be added for each five minute interval.
The Senate bills are awaiting consideration on the floor of
the chamber. King's bill is in the House Transportation Committee.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor