Colorado bills cover truck contracts, tows, Independence Pass

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/10/2014

Three bills getting a lot of play at the Colorado statehouse cover unfair clauses in trucking contracts, truckers who illegally cross Independence Pass, and nonconsensual tows.

A bill awaiting consideration on the House floor would forbid indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

The House Transportation and Energy Committee voted to advance the bill. It would outlaw provisions in contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and would invalidate them.

States lawmakers across the country have been active the past few years changing rules on indemnity clauses. A total of 40 states have acted to forbid unfair provisions from contracts.

A full list of states and the laws where protections are in place is available. States yet to adopt protections are Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Jack McComb of Littleton, Colo., said that truck drivers doing business in states that have yet to act have little or no choice but to accept the unfair terms. He said a change forbidding the clauses is “a no brainer.”

“Legislators need to take action to forbid these clauses and protect the drivers,” McComb told Land Line.

HB1065 would define affected contracts in Colorado 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, or transport property.

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

Another bill awaiting consideration on the House floor would boost the deterrent for certain large vehicles on Independence Pass.

Colorado law prohibits oversize and overweight vehicles – including vehicles or combination vehicles longer than 35 feet, regardless of size – from using the pass that connects Twin Lakes and Aspen. There are signs on each side of the pass, which is typically open for six months each year from Memorial Day through mid-November, indicating the restriction.

HB1021 would boost the punishment for prohibited trucks and RVs found on state Highway 82 between U.S. 24 and the city of Aspen. Fines would increase from $500 to $2,500.

McComb said he welcomes stiff punishment for wayward truckers. He said there is no excuse for a trucker to miss the posted signs alerting truckers to stay off the pass.

House lawmakers already approved one more bill that covers nonconsensual tows. It now moves to the Senate.

Currently, the Public Utilities Commission regulates the rates that can be charged for a nonconsensual tow of vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. Nonconsensual towing rates for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds are determined by a negotiated agreement between the tower and law enforcement.

HB1031 would repeal the 10,000-pound weight restriction to apply the PUC’s towing rate regulation to all vehicles.

McComb said he welcomes any change that would set a fair rate for all tows.

“The problem in Colorado is that the negotiations go on between law enforcement agencies and the towing companies,” he said. “There is no one involved in the negotiations that have the truck driver’s best interest in mind.”

McComb said it is imperative that the state get input from the trucking industry in setting rates.

The bill can be considered by the Senate Transportation Committee.

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