New Jersey bills address loading delays at ports, road safety

| Monday, December 01, 2008

As the clock winds down on the regular session in New Jersey, three bills that could come up for consideration in the final weeks before the Legislature adjourns are intended to improve port operations and safety on roadways.

Truckers forced to wait in line at ports to load or unload are the subject of a bill offered by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex. The bill – A1023 – would prohibit ports from making a truck wait longer than 30 minutes before beginning the loading or off-loading of container cargo at a terminal.

Terminal operators would be subject to a $250 fine for making a truck wait longer than 30 minutes, and each delayed truck would be a separate violation.

Terminals attempting to avoid requirements in the bill by diverting a truck to area roadways, alternate staging areas or forcing the truck to wait inside the gate would be subject to a $750 fine.

The bill would exempt terminals that maintain a fully staffed gate two hours before and after peak commuter hours in the morning and afternoon, at least five days a week.

Another measure introduced by Wisniewski would require terminals to ensure that containers are not overweight or improperly loaded.

Under A1022, an ocean marine terminal found to be violating the order would face $500 fines, per occurrence.

Terminal operators would be forced to weigh each intermodal container upon the container’s arrival at the terminal. Overweight containers would be allowed to be either repacked at the port or returned to the sender.

The bill seeks to extend protection to truckers who refuse overweight containers from retaliation, coercion or threatening under existing New Jersey laws.

In the event of repacking, the terminal operator would be forced to pay a trucker at the rate specified in the contract plus $100 per hour that the container is detained. If a truck departs a terminal with an overweight container and is later stopped by state officials, the terminal operator would be required to pay the trucker at the rate specified in the contract plus $100 per hour that the container is detained.

One more bill offered by Wisniewski is intended to provide for fair treatment of motor carriers and their drivers at intermodal marine terminals. The measure – A1025 – would regulate certain business practices of intermodal equipment providers and marine terminal operators.

This is the fourth session in a row that Wisniewski has offered legislation intended to improve port operations and safety on roadways. The previous versions failed to advance from committee.

This year’s efforts are in the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. However, time is running out on the legislation clearing both chambers at the statehouse. The Legislature is scheduled to wrap up its work Jan. 13.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com

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