SPECIAL REPORT: Legislative issues affecting truckers still active

| 8/14/2003

As fall approaches, a handful of state legislatures are still in session. Most have proposals affecting truckdrivers that remain up in the air.

The most significant issue affecting drivers may be in Ohio, where two identical proposals to eliminate split speeds are under consideration. HB186 and SB94 would eliminate provisions in Ohio law that set up a slower speed for vehicles with a gross weight of more than 8,000 pounds. Intended to improve road safety, each bill is in its respective transportation committee.

Legislation to modify speed limits also remains active in four other states. In Wisconsin, AB147 would push the speed limit for all drivers on the state’s freeways from 65 mph to 70 mph. Oregon’s HB2501 would increase the speed limit of 55 mph for trucks and 65 mph for cars on the state’s freeways to 65 mph and 70 mph, respectively. New York’s S1690 would allow all vehicles to travel at a maximum speed limit of 65 mph on roadways statewide. In addition, Minnesota lawmakers could reopen discussion early next year on SF1248, which would raise the speed limit for all vehicles on the state’s rural two-lane highways from 55 mph to 65 mph only during the day.

California lawmakers are reviewing multiple bills that would impact truckers. AB1767 would raise the weight-based IRP fee in the state. The measure would increase the total fee from $1,700 to $2,420, an increase of 42 percent. Truckers who run all their miles in California would pay the entire fee; those who run part of their miles there would pay based on what percentage of their total miles they run in the state.

AB845 takes aim at “fly-by-night” household goods movers. The bill targets HHG movers who draw in customers with unrealistically low estimates, then hand the customer a higher bill after the goods are on their way.

Another bill under consideration would prevent anyone other than a truckdriver from using the information in a truck’s onboard data recorders without the trucker’s permission. AB213 was targeted at event data recorders in cars, but it also applies to big rigs.

Pennsylvania and Michigan each have proposals intended to help make roadways safer by targeting aggressive drivers. Legislation in the Keystone State would charge someone with aggressive driving “if the person operates a vehicle in a manner which tends to harass, annoy or alarm another person” while breaking at least two traffic laws. Under HB1240, a penalty of aggressive driving would be a misdemeanor. An aggressive driving conviction for which a victim was badly injured would result in a felony, punishable for at least 90 days in jail and a minimum $1,000 fine.

In Michigan, SB332 would charge someone with aggressive driving if found breaking at least two traffic laws. A conviction of aggressive driving would carry a sentence up to 180 days in jail or a fine up to $2,500, or both.

The offenses that would have to be violated in either state to charge someone with aggressive driving include running a red light, running a stop sign, following too closely, failing to yield right-of-way, illegal passing and racing on a highway.

Also in Michigan, a bill package that would roll back recent increases in Mackinac Bridge tolls and freeze fairs until 2006-2007 has been sent to the governor’s desk.

Idling proposals remain active in New York and Oregon. New York’s S883 would restrict commercial vehicle idling under certain conditions. The bill provides an exception for reefers or when the temperature is below 25 degrees F.

In Oregon, SB823 would cut idling time to five minutes for vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds. It would exempt from the idling restriction reefers and trucks with “auxiliary equipment that requires the engine to idle to provide power to the equipment.”

A New Jersey bill – S1399 – would allow sheriffs to weigh, measure and inspect commercial vehicles. The current law relegates weighing and inspections to the State Police. State Police would keep the sole authority to conduct random roadside weight checks.

Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Oregon are scheduled to wrap up their legislative sessions before the end of the year. California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin won’t wrap up work until sometime next year.

For more information on these and other proposals, visit http://www.ooida.com/Legislative/.

--by Keith Goble, staff writer

Keith Goble can be reached at keith_goble@landlinemag.com.