Missouri bills die – focus was on trucks, road safety

| 6/27/2007

The recently completed legislative session in Missouri closed the book on several bills of interest to truck drivers. Among those bills were efforts that included incentives to reduce idling, rules for household movers and increase safety on the state’s roadways.

Senate lawmakers didn’t bring the bill up for a final vote before the session ended. The House previously approved the bill that included a provision to take advantage of an income tax credit made available by Congress in 2005.

The bill – HB488 – would have created a tax credit for installing idle reduction technology for the next two years. The credit would have been 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 have been capped at $15 million per year and $30 million for the duration of the program. Individuals and businesses based in the state would have been eligible.

Among the other truck-related bills that didn’t make the cut was an effort to revise procedure for conducting roadside inspections. The bill – SB484 – called for setting up a program to certify local law enforcement officers to enforce CMV laws. It also would have required 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.

Another bill that failed passage would have prohibited the expungement of records for commercial driver’s license holders who were convicted of or pleaded guilty to an offense with a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or above. The bill – SB50 – included a provision about driving while out of service.

First offenders would have been 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 have faced a two-year ban from driving truck. Existing rules call for a one-year suspension.

Both bills remained in the Senate when the session ended, effectively killing them for the year.

One other bill that died awaiting consideration in the Senate would have required applicants for commercial driver’s licenses to be able to speak and read English. The House previously approved it.

The bill – HB245 – would have required the written test to be offered only in English. Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also would be required. They would have been prohibited from using interpreters or translators while taking the test.

Supporters 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,” Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ellisville, told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio in defense of his bill. “It also follows federal regulations that you should be able to read, write and understand English to get a CDL.”

Opponents said 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.

Advocates for the legislation can bring them back up for consideration during the next regular session that begins in January 2008.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff writer Reed Black contributed to this report.