Alabama bills address idling, road safety and probable cause

| 4/1/2009

Several bills of interest to the trucking industry are up for consideration this year in the Alabama Legislature. Those efforts include providing an incentive for truckers to reduce idling; protecting emergency personnel during roadside stops; and giving law enforcement officers more power to arrest people for misdemeanors.

The House unanimously approved a bill that would increase the maximum gross vehicle, axle weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. Trucks equipped with auxiliary power units would be authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

Supporters say that the weight exemption removes the disincentive that otherwise would keep truckers from using APUs.

States were granted federal authority in 2005 to allow heavy-duty trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound maximum weight limit to encourage the use of idling-reduction equipment.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have long advocated adoption of the 400-pound exemption.

“It was the intent of Congress that the 400-pound exemption become law in all states,” Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist told Land Line. “The Association supports the exemption as reasonable because it’s another inducement to install an APU onto your truck.”

About 20 states do not allow 400-pound exceptions for APUs. Other states looking to add the provision this year include Florida and Indiana. Virginia and Maine have adopted the rule and are scheduled to implement it on July 1 and Sept. 17, respectively.

The Alabama bill – HB190 – has moved to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

A bill that is awaiting a Senate floor vote would add Alabama to the list of about 40 states with laws designed to protect emergency personnel and certain other vehicles during roadside stops. The House already endorsed it by unanimous consent. Senate approval would send it to Gov. Bob Riley’s desk.

HB361 would require drivers to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing law enforcement, emergency vehicles, or wreckers parked by the road.

Dubbed the “Move Over Act,” the measure would require drivers to merge into a lane further away from the specified vehicles, if practical. On two-lane highways, drivers would be required to reduce speed before passing.

Offenders would face $25 fines. Repeat offenses would result in $50 fines while subsequent offenses would result in $100 fines.

Another measure on the House floor would give law enforcement officers more power during roadside stops. HB181 would allow officers during investigations of wrecks to arrest people for any misdemeanor traffic offense where there is probable cause.

Existing state law does not generally authorize an officer to arrest a person for a misdemeanor traffic offense that is not committed in the presence of the officer.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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