Massachusetts bill would alter idling rules

| 9/24/2007

As state lawmakers put on a final push in Massachusetts to approve bills before the regular session ends in about three months, a bill that would alter the state’s rules on idling of vehicles could draw consideration.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank Smizik, D-Brookline, the bill would hold owners and operators of vehicles liable for idling violations. It is in the Joint Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee.

Massachusetts law now limits vehicle idling to no longer than five minutes in any 60-minute period. First-time offenders face minimum $100 fines. Subsequent offenses could result in up to $500 fines.

The bill – H866 – would add exceptions to state law for situations when vehicles are stuck in traffic, required by law enforcement to stop or when idling is necessary to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners, or installing other equipment “solely to prevent a safety or health emergency.”

Drivers idling their trucks while sleeping or resting also would be exempt from the rule.

In addition, the idling prohibition would not apply when idling of trucks “is necessary to power work-related mechanical or electrical operations other than propulsion.” Examples cited in the bill are “mixing or processing cargo or straight truck refrigeration.”

The bill also clarifies that operating auxiliary power units is not included in the restriction.

All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for late December.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor