Washington state bills cover port issues, single trucks

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/8/2012

Truck issues are among the items that Washington state lawmakers are reviewing at the statehouse. Topics covered include intermodal chassis, a heavy-haul corridor, and single trucks.

The House Transportation Committee voted 22-6 on Tuesday, Feb. 7, to advance a bill that would clarify the handling of those chassis at the state’s ports that are not properly maintained.

Equipment providers already are required to provide sufficient space for drivers to perform a pre-trip inspection of intermodal equipment. Procedures must also be in place to address any equipment concerns, or replace equipment, prior to drivers’ departure.

Intermodal haulers are required to perform inspection of the equipment prior to leaving the facility. Any violations occurring while on the road are the responsibility of the driver.

Sponsored by Rep. Deb Eddy, D-Kirkland, the bill addresses concerns at the Port of Seattle about the safety of intermodal equipment.

Eddy said that federal law already affords truck drivers an opportunity to perform inspections but there is no opportunity for them to actually do the inspection.

“They are put in position of taking the load and being told to immediately exit the premises without getting out of the truck,” Eddy told lawmakers during discussion on the bill. “So of course it is very difficult to inspect a chassis and access the weight if you are not allowed to get out of the truck.”

Among the provisions in the bill is a requirement for the Port of Seattle to be responsible for creating “roadability safety zones” where haulers can complete a driver vehicle inspection report. These haulers must perform pre-trip inspections as required by FMCSA and not leave the marine terminal with any equipment that has safety defects.

The bill also specifies that haulers cannot be retaliated against for refusing a load due to safety defects or being overweight.

In addition, any driver refusing a load for legitimate safety reasons, which includes overweight containers, must be paid the haul rate the driver would have received for transporting the load. The affected driver must also be assigned the next available chassis and cargo container.

“I do believe we are taking what is a serious safety problem on our roads and to these drivers, and attempting to find a solution that fits both their needs and the needs of the port,” Eddy said.

The bill – HB2527 – moves to the House floor for consideration. If approved there, it would advance to the Senate.

Another bill on the move would lengthen a heavy-haul corridor near the Port of Tacoma. Sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, the bill would extend the corridor on State Route 509 by 1.82 miles.

State law now allows a 3.63-mile segment of SR 509 to be designated as a heavy-haul corridor. The affected port district stretches from the port complex to Taylor Way.

Jinkins said the extension would benefit additional businesses in the vicinity of Norpoint Way Northeast.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance the bill – HB2476 – to the House floor for further consideration. If approved there, it would move to the Senate.

Also approved by unanimous consent in the House Transportation Committee is a bill that would affect single trucks. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Blaine, the bill would increase the length limit from 40 feet to 46 feet.

Vehicles excluded from the maximum length remain unchanged.

According to a fiscal note on the bill the change could result in the state losing out on $67,620 in over-length permits annually.

The bill – HB2430 – is headed to the full House.

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

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