Several new laws of interest to truckers in Oregon

| 8/14/2007

Before state lawmakers in Oregon wrapped up their regular session this summer they passed several bills of interest to the trucking industry.

One new law is an attempt to clean up old diesel engines in the state. It takes effect in late September.

Trucks, buses, construction equipment and farm vehicles will get help from the state to replace and retrofit pre-2007 diesel engines and reduce idling. The new law will provide $9 million in state grants, loans and tax breaks to update engines so they emit less pollution.

Statewide, the annual cost in health care, lost work days, reduced visibility and other indirect costs associated with diesel fumes is $2 billion, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires 2007 and newer model year trucks to have much lower emissions. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality estimates that cleaner-burning engines would reduce diesel emissions in the state by 85 percent and lower the risk of cancer from those emissions from 23 cases to one case per million by 2017.

A separate new law includes a provision that gets tough with those driving truck who don’t heed their out-of-service orders. It increases the minimum and maximum penalty for violating OOS orders.

Oregon law previously required violators to face between $1,100 and $2,750 fines. The new law boosts the fine range from between $2,750 to $11,000. It also provides for the reinstatement of a “lifetime suspension” of a commercial driver’s license after 10 years.

It takes effect Jan. 1, 2008.

Another new law is intended to help aspiring truck drivers learn the ropes. It establishes a program that will provide $200,000 to Clackamas Community College. The program is subject to a grant agreement that states the college in Oregon City will commit to producing 50 truck drivers within the funding allowed.

Other new laws of interest include a measure that provides $100 million in lottery funds for transportation projects other than highways.

The “Connect Oregon II” bill authorizes money for freight delivery systems across the state. Promoted by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, it is the second phase of his effort to improve ports, railways and airports. The first round, approved in 2005, funded similar projects.

The governor said the money from lottery-backed grants and loans is the next step in creating a business climate in the state that supports moving people, goods and commerce.

“The reality is that more and more of our economy depends on efficient and reliable trade, travel and transportation,” Kulongoski said in a written statement.

Kulongoski also signed a bill lifting current restrictions in state law allowing only cities with populations of more than 30,000, and Newberg in Yamhill County, to install and operate red-light cameras.

Currently, Portland is limited to 12 photo-enforced intersections and Beaverton, Newberg and Medford are limited to eight.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2008.

One other new law that will take effect at the first of the year allows the Oregon Department of Transportation to use photo radar in certain construction work zones. The department can implement a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of photo radar to enforce traffic speeds in state highway work zones. The use of speed radar is prohibited on interstate highways.

Photo radar can only be operated when at least one member of construction crews are present in highway work zones.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Oregon in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor