Texas idling issues sent to governor

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/27/2011

The Texas House voted unanimously to approve a bill that would permit trucks with “clean idle” engines to idle while also providing an incentive to reduce idling. The bill – SB493 – now moves to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. The Senate already approved it on a 29-1 vote.

Texas law now limits idling to five minutes per hour from April to October in cities that include Austin and Dallas. Counties that make idling off limits are Bastrop, Caldwell, Collin, Hays, Kaufman, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson.

The bill calls for the idling restriction to be removed for trucks equipped with a 2008 model year or newer engine that is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. Heavy-duty engines certified by a state environmental agency to emit fewer than 30 grams of NOx per hour would also qualify.

In the bill analysis, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, wrote that “during many months of the year, it is impossible for a driver to get the rest he or she needs without air conditioning or heat.”

OOIDA Senior Member Danny Schnautz of Pasadena, TX, likened sitting inside a truck during the Texas summer to sitting in a “hotbox.” Schnautz is in charge of operations, sales and accounting for Clark Freight Lines in Pasadena, TX.

“Anything that moves toward the flexibility of letting the truck idle is a good thing,” Schnautz told Land Line.

Also included in the bill is a provision to increase the maximum weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology.

Commercial vehicles equipped with auxiliary power units would be authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

Supporters say the allowance rewards independent truck drivers and large trucking firms for using technology to increase fuel economy and decrease emissions.

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.

OOIDA has long advocated adoption of the 400-pound exemption, even before the federal authority was granted. Association leadership supports the exemption as reasonable because it’s another inducement to install APUs onto trucks.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 26 states have laws that allow the weight exemption. Texas is one of 18 states where the weight allowance is granted by enforcement policy rather than by state law.

In New Hampshire, Gov. John Lynch recently signed into law the weight allowance. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2012. Elsewhere, a Massachusetts bill would also make the allowance state law. A hearing is scheduled on the bill – H951 – for June 14.

Other states yet to permit the 400-pound exemption are California, Hawaii, Kentucky, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

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