Maryland truck bills cover ticket cams, overweight loads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Two Maryland bills address the use of automated enforcement targeting trucks and the rules on certain truck weights

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted Tuesday, March 6, to advance a bill that would employ enforcement cameras to help make sure trucks stay off restricted highways near the Port of Baltimore. SB306 now awaits further consideration in the Senate.

The city of Baltimore now restricts trucks on various roadways from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Generally, the height of any vehicle and its load cannot exceed 13 feet and 6 inches on such routes as the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and its approaches (Interstate 895). Any oversize vehicle and load together exceeding 14 feet and 6 inches tall is prohibited from entering the I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel.

“Despite those restrictions, we still have trucks on the road (overnight),” Delegate Peter Hammen, D-Baltimore City, told lawmakers during recent discussion on the effort.

The bill’s House sponsor noted that a police officer must be deployed to cite those trucks.

“It probably is not the best use of that officer’s time.”

The city recently completed a truck study that suggested using cameras to help determine where violation “hot spots” are located.

As a result, Hammen and Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, introduced bills to authorize the city of Baltimore to use vehicle height monitoring systems on highways to snap photos of trucks in violation of the time restriction.

“It’s a very effective way of addressing this problem,” Hammen said.

First-time offenders would get off with warnings. Repeat offenders would face $250 fines. Subsequent offenses could result in fines of up to $500.

According to a fiscal note on the bill, the enforcement tool could result in 2,300 citations each year from six vehicle height monitoring systems. Revenue for the city could increase by more than $1 million annually.

The expense to outfit three locations with two cameras and related signs is estimated at $61,200.

The Senate recently gave unanimous consent to advancing a separate bill to modify the circumstances when a police officer is required to allow an overweight vehicle carrying perishable products to continue to its destination, without unloading.

Maryland law now allows drivers of overweight vehicles hauling perishable goods to proceed without being required to unload any product if it is their first weight violation in the calendar year, regardless of excess weight.

The bill – SB116 – would allow truckers to continue on their way without unloading if the overweight violation is their first weight violation in the past 365 days. The load must also be within 5,000 pounds of the weight limit.

Advocates for the change say the bill would help address a problem with losing entire loads of perishable products.

They point out that health regulations require that, if any excess load is removed from an overweight vehicle, generally the entire load must be unloaded. As a result, the load is lost.

Also addressed in the bill is the concern about some motor carriers exploiting the current exemption. Eligibility for exemption would be limited to one for each motor carrier per year, instead of one for individual operators.

The bill is awaiting consideration in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

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

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