Legislation in Missouri focuses on trucks; road safety

| Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Several bills of interest to truck drivers continue to draw consideration in the Missouri General Assembly as the end of the regular session approaches.

The Senate unanimously 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 is in the House Transportation Committee.

A separate measure offered by Stouffer would create an income 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 bill – SB202 – is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Another bill offered by Stouffer would require all shipments of radioactive waste in the state to be assessed fees. It is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.

Shippers who fail to pay fees or notify the Department of Natural Resources about shipments would face penalties up to 10 times the amount of the original assessed fee.

Sponsored by Stouffer, the bill would exempt from the fees and notification requirements radioactive waste being shipped by or for the federal government for military or national defense purposes.

The provisions in the bill – SB205 – would sunset after six years.

One other bill introduced by Stouffer would prohibit the expungement of records for commercial driver’s license holders convicted of or pled guilty to an offense where the person’s blood alcohol content is 0.04 percent or above. It is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that would allow common carriers of household goods to file applications to the State Highways and Transportation Commission for approval of rates to reflect increases and decreases in the carrier’s costs. The House already approved it.

Sponsored by Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, the bill – HB28 – would repeal “the exemption that currently allows household goods movers to operate wholly in municipalities, between contiguous municipalities, or commercial zones” without having to obtain operating authority from the Missouri Department of Transportation. Currently, household movers are exempt from the rules and regulations if their operations are restricted to those described areas.

The House Transportation Committee approved a bill that includes the same provisions but also would prohibit indemnity agreements in motor carrier transportation contracts that claim “to indemnify a party against loss from negligence or intentional acts void and unenforceable.” Sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, the bill – SB45 – is headed to the House floor. The Senate already approved it by unanimous consent.

Two more bills of interest still are in the House Transportation Committee.

The first bill would allow harsher penalties for CDL holders found to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Sponsored by Rep. Darrell Pollock, R-Lebanon, the bill – HB114 – would increase the fine and penalty for violators. Existing law allow for up to 6 months imprisonment and/or as much as a $500 fine. The proposed change to the law would allow for as much as one year behind bars and up to a $1,000 fine.

The second bill would apply to truckers and other drivers.

Sponsored by Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ellisville, the bill – HB89 – would double the fine for a moving or speeding violation within a designated travel safe zone.

A “travel safe zone” is defined as any stretch of road posted by MoDOT where a highway safety analysis shows the number of injury or fatal crashes “exceeds a predicted safety performance level for comparable roadways as determined by the department,” St. Onge wrote.

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