Maine bills focus on

| 1/12/2009

Several bills of interest to truck drivers in Maine have been offered for consideration during the regular session that started early this month. The topics include an incentive to reduce truck idling and the reopening of certain rest stops on U.S. Route 1.

Sponsored by Rep. Charles Theriault, D-Madawaska, the legislative draft – LD37 – would increase the maximum gross vehicle, axle weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. The proposal would authorize trucks equipped with auxiliary power units to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

Theriault is the sponsor of another effort – LD36 – that would give truckers and other drivers more options for stopping along U.S. Route 1. It proposes to reopen closed rest areas in Fort Kent and Grand Isle.

The expense of reopening and maintaining the two rest areas would be shared with the affected communities.

Rep. Walter Wheeler, D-Kittery, offered another measure – LD42 – that would increase the time period for motor vehicle inspections for personal vehicles to two years. Commercial trucks and trailers would continue to be inspected on an annual basis.

Other bills address topics that are often pet peeves of truck drivers. Sen. Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport, wants to deter aggressive driving. His legislation – LD8 – would make acts of “road rage” a crime.

Rosen wants to apply the rule to such acts as sudden acceleration, sudden braking and following too closely. Cutting off another vehicle in a lane or deliberately preventing another vehicle from merging also would qualify as a crime.

Honking vehicle horns or flashing lights excessively, making rude gestures and yelling obscenities also would be no-no’s. Offenders would have their driving privileges suspended for 90 days. A court also would require completion of an anger-management course.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, is pursuing a law that would make driving while distracted a moving violation. The bill – LD6 – would prohibit engaging in any activity that “impairs the driver’s ability to drive.”

Two more bills – LD40 and LD41 – target the use of hand-held devices. LD41 includes a provision prohibiting drivers from sending text messages while at the wheel. Both measures would make exceptions for certain drivers, including commercial drivers who use the devices “within the scope of their employment.”

Maine law already prohibits drivers under 18 from talking or texting.

LD6 is awaiting assignment to committee. The rest of the bills are in the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor