Rhode Island bills cover tank endorsements, truck restrictions

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rhode Island lawmakers are taking up for consideration bills that cover tank endorsements, truck restrictions and insurance.

House lawmakers endorsed a bill that would ease rules on getting tank endorsements.

H7112 would remove a requirement in state law that an applicant seeking a commercial driver’s license with a tank endorsement must have regularly driven for at least one year.

Supporters say the change is necessary to aid small businesses that are affected by federal changes to the definition of a tanker truck, including heating oil delivery trucks.

The bill has moved to the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The House also voted to advance a bill that would limit truck traffic in the town of North Smithfield.

H7027 would prohibit commercial trucks with at least four axles from driving around the town hall in North Smithfield. Specifically, affected loads couldn’t be driven within one-third of one mile of the building.

In addition, four-axle trucks would be forbidden from crossing the historic stone arch bridge in the area of Railroad Street and Providence Pike, or Route 5, while construction and repairs are taking place.

Supporters say the configuration of the road causes a problem for truckers. They are concerned that eventually a truck could overturn while trying to drive through the area.

“It’s a curvy stretch of road. There have been a couple of incidents where people witnessed tractor-trailer trucks having difficulty trying to navigate the turn,” Rep. Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield, explained during a recent House committee hearing.

The state Department of Transportation would be responsible for posting signage to alert truckers about the restriction.

Violators would face $50 fines. Subsequent offenses would result in $100 fines.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee.

A separate bill limits truck traffic in the town of Smithfield.

Specifically, commercial trucks in excess of four tons would be prohibited from using Route 116, or Smith Avenue, in the community northwest of Providence off of Interstate 295.

The state DOT would be responsible for posting signage to alert truckers to stay off the stretch of road between West Greenville Road and Route 44.

Local deliveries would be exempted from the ban.

Violators would face fines of $50 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses would result in $100 fines.

H7128 is in the House Municipal Government Committee.

Two more bills halfway through the statehouse are intended to help truckers and other drivers avoid the delay of shuffling through papers in their vehicle to locate their insurance card.

H7098 and H7125 would permit people to get behind the wheel of a vehicle without a paper insurance card as long as they have a form of digital proof of insurance.

“Today, there are a lot of insurance companies out there that provide digital insurance cards and information for their customers,” Rep. Gregg Amore, D-East Providence said in a news release. “This bill is simply a way to keep our system current.”

H7125 specifies that law enforcement would be relieved from any liability for damage to an electronic device when it’s presented as proof of insurance. However, police would be forbidden to access any other information on the electronic device.

The option for digital proof of insurance is growing in popularity. More and more insurance companies offer apps for customers to download on electronic devices.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, about 30 states have adopted the policy.

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