West Virginia advances stricter truck rules

| 3/30/2010

A bill toughening certain truck rules has made its way to the West Virginia governor’s desk. The state is far from being alone in its pursuit of changes to these rules.

The House voted 89-8 to approve a bill that would make changes to West Virginia law concerning commercial driver’s licenses to comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Senate lawmakers then signed off on changes to the bill, which cleared the way for SB396 to advance to Gov. Joe Manchin’s desk.

Among the changes in the bill are measures to beef up out-of-service violations. Fines for drivers found violating OOS orders would increase from $1,100 to $2,500. Subsequent offenses would result in $5,000 fines.

Motor carriers would also face greater punishment. Employers convicted of knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing a driver in OOS status to get behind the wheel would face fines between $2,750 and $25,000. Currently, the maximum fine is $10,000.

Another provision in the bill would modify the length of a driver’s suspension for violating an OOS order. Getting behind the wheel of a truck subject to an OOS order would result in the driver’s license being suspended for six months. State law now authorizes 90-day suspensions.

Repeat offenses within 10 years would result in loss of driving privileges for two years – up from one year. Subsequent offenses within 10 years would continue to result in suspensions of three years.

West Virginia is not alone in trying to enact harsher penalties for violating OOS penalties. A similar effort is under way in New Hampshire. Elsewhere, Indiana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Wisconsin have recently enacted changes into law.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, said these states have every incentive to make sure their rules mirror federal standards. Not only do they see it as a safety issue, but he said states have to protect their pocketbooks.

“If they’re not compliant, these states run a risk of having federal funds withheld,” Rajkovacz told Land Line.

But the incentive to act doesn’t end there. Rajkovacz said another factor that could be spurring states to take action is the legal challenges brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association against the state of Minnesota. OOIDA is challenging how six years’ worth of citations involving motor carrier safety regulations were issued.

Also included in the West Virginia bill is a provision that clarifies hazardous materials endorsements cannot be issued for terms longer than five years – the same as federal law.

In addition, commercial drivers would be required to hand over any previously issued CDL before obtaining a renewed or duplicate license with updated information.

To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia in 2010, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.