Washington bills cover unsecured loads, driver database

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, January 25, 2013

Two bills at the Washington statehouse cover unsecured loads and a voluntary database of truck drivers.

State law requires vehicles, including large trucks, operating on public highways with loads of dirt, sand or gravel to be covered. An exception is made for loads with at least six inches of freeboard within the bed.

The House Transportation Committee took up for initial consideration of a bill to add loads of rock to the coverage requirement. A provision is included to gradually remove the freeboard buffer.

The changes would take effect Aug. 1. Specifically, loads equipped with covers would be required to be covered. Starting July 1, 2014, all such loads would be required to be covered. In addition, loads could not exceed the horizontal freeboard of the vehicle bed.

“We hear all the time about people getting their windshields smashed, or chipped,” Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest, told lawmakers. “It’s important that we address this to make our highways as safe as possible.”

State vehicles would be included in the load rule. The Washington State Department of Transportation estimates a one-time expense of $392,000 to equip the agency’s 302 maintenance trucks with covers.

WSDOT’s Enrico Baroga said the agency supports the requirement for all vehicles.

“Covering loads generally improves safety on the highway. It will also result in less debris,” Baroga testified.

Kagi’s bill – HB1007 – also specifies that the Washington State Patrol continue random “emphasis patrols” to enforce the load-covering requirement.

Opposition testimony questioned whether the issue warrants a tarp requirement. Few reported incidents combined with the expense of purchasing and maintaining tarps were cited.

Another bill in the House Transportation Committee covers suspensions of commercial driver’s licenses. HB1070 would require the state’s licensing department to notify certain employers about CDL suspensions, revocations or cancellations.

Truck drivers already are required to notify their company.

Advocates say the bill would help with drivers who do not follow that rule.

Sponsored by Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, the bill would make the state DOL responsible for setting up a voluntary database where employers can register drivers for notification.

Cost to setup the database is estimated at $236,000.

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

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