Louisiana bills cover road clearing, vehicle fees, veterans

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/25/2014

Louisiana lawmakers are considering bills of interest to truck drivers that focus on clearing roads, registration fees, hazmat loads, and veterans.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that covers removing debris or vehicles along certain highways following wrecks or other incidents.

Sponsored by Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, the bill would permit law enforcement to remove any vehicle, cargo or other property damaged or spilled along roadways included in the National Highway System which could cause a hazard or obstruct traffic. The vehicle owner’s consent would not be necessary.

During rush hour periods, law enforcement would be required to take “immediate action” to keep all lanes of traffic open. The peak travel times are defined as from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Sen. Erdey said the peak time provision is necessary to avoid waiting on tow trucks to arrive and the additional traffic backups that result.

“We don’t want to be calling in tow and recovery to come in and tie up additional lanes of traffic to do their thing when we have so many people, including truck traffic, backed up for miles during these particular hours,” Erdey told committee members. “We simply want to get them out of the way so we can free up traffic immediately.”

SB661 awaits further consideration on the Senate floor.

A separate bill would more than double the vehicle registration fee for certain large trucks. Specifically, HB1123 would increase the registration fee for trucks weighing between 80,001 and 88,000 pounds from about $512 to $1,056.

According to a fiscal note on the bill, the increase would affect 1,750 trucks registered in the state.

It is estimated that boosting the fee would result in the state’s transportation trust fund collecting about $1.89 million annually – up from $940,000.

The bill awaits consideration in the House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee.

Another bill in the committee prohibits hauling hazardous materials within a five mile radius of a university in Baton Rouge Parish.

Sponsored by Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, HB1021 would make an exception for local pickups or deliveries, or for using a route to reach a pickup or delivery. Hazmat loads could also use routes within the affected area for service or maintenance.

The House voted unanimously to advance another bill that would 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 Rep. Andy Anders, D-Vidalia, said veterans brought the issue to his attention in the middle of corn season.

“We’ve just been bombarded by trying to find trucks to haul 200-bushel corn out of there,” he testified.

The bill would also aid Louisiana meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act and MAP-21.

HB1005 is in the Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

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