Heads up, highway users: New state laws now in effect

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/3/2012

Numerous rules of interest to truck drivers have taken effect since the New Year.

Much attention has been paid to the federal rule in effect Tuesday, Jan. 3, to prohibit use of hand-held cellphones for truck drivers. At the state level there are new rules that address truck idling, road safety and food stamps.

An incentive to reduce truck idling in New Hampshire is in place. The new law increases the maximum weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology.

Specifically, commercial vehicles equipped with auxiliary power units are authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

Rep. Robert Williams, D-Concord, noted that the change allows “cost conscious, environmentally friendly truckers to regain the 400 pounds of gross weight they lose when they utilize this technology.”

Rules that are intended to reduce driver distractions are also fresh on the books. All drivers in Nevada are prohibited from text messaging and using hand-held cellphones. In North Dakota, new rules bar all drivers from texting while another rule forbids the state’s youngest drivers from using cellphones.

Efforts to address impaired driving are in effect in California and Oregon. The Golden State now authorizes courts to revoke for up to 10 years the driver’s licenses of anyone convicted of three or more DUI offenses. Previously, license revocation was limited to three years.

To address drunken driving, Oregon is the most recent of about one dozen states to mandate ignition interlock devices to be installed as part of the state’s DUI diversion agreements. The requirement will be extended to about 10,000 first-time offenders annually.

In New York, towing and recovery service vehicles are now included in the state’s Move Over rule.

Current rules require vehicles to move over or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles with lights flashing. Vehicles already protected in the rule include fire and police personnel, as well as ambulances.

A California law is intended to boost enrollment for food stamps. The new law eliminates the requirement that food stamp recipients be fingerprinted to prevent fraud. Another law calls for state agencies to promote enrollment in the federal food stamp program.

Arizona and New York City are the only two remaining jurisdictions that require applicants to be fingerprinted.

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