Legislation on the move in Missouri focuses on trucks; road safety

| 4/9/2007

Bills of interest to truck drivers seemingly have flooded the Missouri statehouse since it opened for business early this year. Among those bills are measures that include incentives to reduce idling, implement rules for household movers and increase safety on the state’s roadways.

The Senate approved a bill that would increase the maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit for large trucks equipped with idle reduction technology. Sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the measure – SB102 – also would authorize affected trucks to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

The bill has been forwarded to the House Transportation Committee.

A measure that has advanced from the House to the Senate would take advantage of an income tax credit made available by Congress in 2005. The bill – HB488 – would create a tax credit for installing idle reduction technology for the next two years. The credit would be equal to 50 percent of the amount of purchase and installation on class 8 trucks – up to $3,500 per truck.

The tax credits would be capped at $15 million per year and $30 million for the duration of the program. Individuals and businesses based in the state would be eligible.

Sponsored by Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, the bill is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Another bill would revise procedures for conducting roadside inspections. Sponsored by Stouffer, the bill would set up a program to certify local law enforcement officers to enforce CMV laws. The bill – SB484 – also would require owners of CMVs with a licensed gross weight in excess of 50,000 pounds to verify registration with motor carrier services to obtain or renew licenses.

One other bill offered by Stouffer would prohibit the expungement of records for commercial driver’s license holders who are convicted of or plead guilty to an offense with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent or above. The bill – SB50 – includes a provision about driving while out of service.

First offenders would be prohibited from driving a commercial motor vehicle for six months. Existing Missouri law calls for a three month ban. Anyone found in violation a second time within a period of 10 years would face a two-year ban from driving truck. Existing rules call for a one-year suspension.

SB484 has advanced from the Senate Transportation Committee to the Senate floor. SB50 still is in the committee.

A House-approved bill would require applicants for commercial driver’s licenses to be able to speak and read English. It’s been forwarded to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ellisville, the bill – HB245 – would require the written CDL test to be offered only in English. Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also would be required. Applicants would be prohibited from using interpreters or translators while taking the test.

St. Onge said it’s a matter of safety.

“We’re allowing interpreters for people taking their CDL exams. I think you should have a command of the English language to be able to drive a truck on our roads,” St. Onge told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio. “It also follows federal regulations that you should be able to read, write and understand English to get a CDL.”

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. They also voice concern that adopting the strict standards would push certain trucking companies to go “underground” to hire people to sit behind the wheel of trucks.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff writer Reed Black contributed to this report.