The Texas Legislature only meets in regular session once
every two years, but when the legislators do gather in Austin, they churn out
quite a bit of legislation for consideration. Several truck-related bills have
received attention in the statehouse during the current session.
One legislative package covers topics that include truck
enforcement, English-only license testing and criminal history record checks.
The Senate unanimously approved one bill that is intended to
allow more police to enforce truck rules. Texas law now allows police in cities
with populations of 100,000 or more to enforce commercial motor vehicle safety
standards. Police in cities with populations of 25,000 or more also are allowed
to enforce the CMV safety standards as long as they are located in counties
with populations of at least two million.
Cities must be certified from the Texas Department of Public
Safety to enforce the safety standards.
Sponsored by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, the bill - SB545 -
would allow police in cities with populations of 50,000 or more to enforce the
safety standards. It also would allow police in cities with populations of
25,000 or more and located in counties with populations of at least 500,000 to
enforce the standards.
Supporters say the changes to state law would allow an
additional 43 cities to become eligible to enforce truck rules.
While lawmakers reacted favorably to the truck enforcement
measure, the two other bills in the package didn't make it out of committee.
At the urging of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration, one bill - SB546 - was an attempt to deal with the requirement
to speak and read English as a condition for the issuance of commercial
Also sponsored by Carona, the bill would have required the
knowledge test to be offered only in English. The Department of Public Safety
also would have been required to test applicants' ability to speak and read
English. Applicants' ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in
English also would have been required.
Supporters said the lack of English comprehension for some
truck drivers is a matter of public safety. They also said it is a significant
barrier to communication at weigh stations.
Opponents said there are no studies that suggest English
proficiency makes better drivers. They also voiced concern that adopting the
strict standards would push certain trucking companies to go "underground" to
hire people to sit behind the wheels of trucks.
In the end, the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security
Committee opted to hold off on making a decision on the matter until the
federal government gives states more direction on English-only testing.
One other bill offered by Carona sidelined by the committee
sought to authorize the Texas Department of Transportation to revoke or suspend
motor carrier registrations if carriers fail to conduct required drug or
alcohol testing on employees who hold commercial driver's licenses.
Motor carriers also would have been required to conduct
criminal history checks on drivers already employed, prospective drivers or
An analysis of the bill - SB547 - indicates it would require
an additional 618,800 criminal history records checks be conducted in the first
year. Nearly 13,000 checks would be need annually thereafter.
- By Keith Goble, satte