Virginia bills cover truck rules, ticket cameras, speed limits

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Virginia lawmakers have two months to work through an estimated 3,000 bills. Among the issues of interest that could draw consideration are bills that cover truck rules, ticket cameras, reckless driving and speed limits.

The first bill would revise multiple sections in state law relating to commercial driver’s licenses to comply with federal requirements.

Virginia law would prohibit driving truck while talking on a handheld phone. Motor carriers who require drivers to use a hand-held device or to text while at the wheel would face fines up to $11,000.

Distracted driving would also be required to be included as part of the state’s driver’s license knowledge exam.

HB662 would also make it easier for veterans to get back to work driving truck. Service personnel returning from duty would be allowed to exchange their military CDL for a state-issued CDL without requiring a driving test. However, to be eligible applicants must have at least two years of experience driving a military commercial vehicle “immediately prior” to application for a CDL.

Sponsored by Delegate Robert Brink, D-Arlington, the bill would aid Virginia in meeting the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act and MAP-21.

A fiscal note on the bill reports that failure to meet these requirements could cost the state some federal funding. Specifically, the state would stand to lose about $34.2 million in federal funds the first year of noncompliance, and about $68.4 million each year thereafter.

Brink’s bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

Also in the House Transportation Committee is a bill covering weight limits for coal trucks. HB1162 states that if the load of a coal truck doesn’t rise above the top of the bed or the line painted to indicate the maximum permissible height of the load, “there is an irrebuttable presumption, rather than prima facie evidence,” that the weight of the vehicle is within applicable limits.

Three separate bills cover the use of ticket cameras throughout the state. The automatic ticketing machines are used in nine communities and two counties.

HB1040 specifies that drivers found in violation at photo-monitored intersections would have a right to appeal to the circuit court and that the appeal would be civil in nature. Fine amounts would also drop from $50 to $25.

HB255 would also cut into profits by standardizing yellow times at intersections around the state posted with red-light cameras. All red-light cameras would be required to have yellow times of at least three seconds.

HB973 would go a step further and repeal the authority for localities to operate a “photo-red” program.

The city of Chesapeake indicated to the state that cancellation of the program would cost the city as much as $385,000 to simply cancel the contracts for cameras set up at 11 intersections.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted unanimously to advance another bill that addresses concerns about reckless driving. SB293 would punish reckless drivers that cause serious injury or death of law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters or highway workers. Offenders would face at least $2,500 fines and the possibility of loss of driving privileges for one year. A judge could also add a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

Other bills of note:

  • HB426 would require the Commonwealth Transportation Board to include in the next update of its six-year improvement program “a project to add at least two non-high-occupancy vehicle lanes in each direction” to Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway.
  • SB147 would require the Virginia Department of Transportation to post notice on its website and provide for public comment before starting a safety-related or congestion management transportation project or when a project is expanded or significantly altered. If requested, VDOT would also be required to hold a public hearing.
  • HB1164 would authorize speed limits to be reduced on U.S. 23 and U.S. Alternate 58 from 70 mph to 60 mph.
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