Arkansas adopts left-lane limits, nears passage of truck rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/10/2013

Arkansas lawmakers are deciding on possible rule changes that are of interest to truckers. The issues include independent contractor status, indemnity rules and left-lane use.

Gov. Mike Beebe signed a bill into law on Monday, April 8, which is intended to keep most drivers out of the fast lane. Currently, state law requires drivers to merge right only when another vehicle is trying to pass.

Effective this summer, left-lane use will be off limits for anything other than passing.

Supporters, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

“Periodic signs” will be posted to alert travelers to the new rule.

Another bill covers the employment status of independent contractors, including owner-operators.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted to advance a bill to the chamber floor that seeks to clarify independent contractor status.

Motor carriers would be required to offer workers’ compensation to independent contractors. If owner-operators choose to accept the insurance coverage, it would not terminate the individual’s independent contractor status.

Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, told committee members the bill accomplishes two things.

“It allows independent operators to maintain their independent contractor status, as well as allow them workers compensation insurance without losing their status,” Murdock testified.

If approved by the full House, SB802 would head to the governor’s desk. The Senate already approved it by unanimous consent.

One more bill winding its way through the Senate would prohibit unfair clauses in trucking contracts.

SB762 would do away with indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

Provisions in contracts would be outlawed that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them “void and unenforceable.”

States across the country have been busy the past few years changing rules on indemnity clauses. There are 38 states that have acted to forbid the provisions from contracts.

A full list of states, and the laws, where protections are in place is available.

Supporters say that indemnification clauses require freight carriers to take on liability for the negligence of shippers. As a result, truckers are responsible for trailer packing, even though shippers actually do the packing.

They say the contract clauses are bad for the trucking industry. Another complaint is they create a safety issue because the shipper’s incentive to perform its duties in a prudent and reasonably safe manner is eliminated.

Affected contracts in Arkansas would be defined as “a contract, agreement, or understanding” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload, deliver or transport property, including the storage of property.

The protection would not apply to intermodal chassis, containers, or other intermodal equipment.

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

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