Washington House approves unsecured load requirement

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A bill on the move at the Washington statehouse covers unsecured loads.

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 voted 53-42 to advance a bill to the Senate that would 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, 2015, all such loads would be required to be covered. In addition, loads could not exceed the horizontal freeboard of the vehicle bed.

The bill – HB1007 – was amended in committee to delay the covering requirement one year.

“We hear all the time about people getting their windshields smashed or chipped,” Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest, told lawmakers during recent discussion on the bill. “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 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.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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

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