Missouri bills cover medical certification, driver safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, January 20, 2012

Missouri lawmakers wasted little time after the first of the year in addressing a hot topic for truckers. Other issues that soon could receive consideration cover licensing requirements and driver distractions.

During their first week of legislative work, the Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill to bring the state in line with the federal rules on medical certification.

After Jan. 30, CDL holders operating interstate will be required to provide proof from a doctor to state licensing offices that they are healthy enough to get behind the wheel. Failure to certify by early 2014 could result in a downgrade of licenses and possible suspension.

Sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the bill would make sure state statute matches with federal requirements. SB443 awaits further consideration on the Senate floor.

States such as Missouri have every incentive to adopt the federal rules. Failure to meet deadlines could cost states 5 percent of federal highway funds. In the case of the Show-Me State, failure to act would result in the loss of $30 million.

Stouffer said later in comments posted online that he doubts the General Assembly can get the bill all the way to the governor before the deadline. However, the feds could provide the state a grace period; as long as they submit a plan to comply with the mandate.

Another bill is intended to help ensure that aspiring motorists have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their licenses to drive. The requirement already exists in Missouri for would-be truck drivers.

Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis, once again has introduced a bill to require both portions of the examinations for personal licenses – written test and skill test – to be administered only in English.

Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also would be required. They would be prohibited from using translators while taking the tests.

A year ago the bill failed to advance from committee. The outcome could be much different this year.

Shortly after HB1147 was introduced reports emerged about a federal grand jury in Kansas City, MO, indicting 14 defendants for conspiring to provide Missouri driver’s licenses for more than 3,500 illegal immigrants living across the country.

Nearly half of the defendants allegedly accompanied illegal immigrants to license offices, often posing as translators, to help them with the process.

Gatschenberger also offered a separate bill that is intended to eliminate a driver distraction.

Missouri law now prohibits drivers under age 21 from sending text messages.

HB1148 would forbid all drivers from texting. Cellphone use while behind the wheel would also be off limits for all drivers unless a hands-free phone is used.

The bill is awaiting assignment to committee. HB1147 has moved to the House International Trade and Job Creation Committee.

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

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