New Nebraska laws cover CDL tests, farm, livestock hauls

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Three new laws in Nebraska cover licensing for prospective truck drivers, farm equipment shipping and livestock spillage.

Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law a bill that revises the CDL process in the state. Previously LB983, the new rule requires increased auditing and monitoring of CDL skills testing of both state and third-party CDL examiners.

The Department of Motor Vehicles now is able to monitor fewer than 2.5 percent of all CDL skills testing, according to state figures. The new law allows the state to increase monitoring to more than 15 percent with the addition of three CDL compliance officers.

A fiscal note estimates that increased expenses to comply with the federal rules would cause some county locations to stop offering CDL testing.

Another provision in the bill brings state law in line with the feds on prohibiting truck drivers from using hand-held devices while driving.

Failure to adopt the rules would have put Nebraska in noncompliance with federal regulations. As a result, the state stood to lose out on an estimated $13.7 million in fiscal year 2015, and the amount would have doubled to $27.4 million each year thereafter.

One more provision in LB983 exempts farmers and their employees from commercial driving regulations when behind the wheel of covered farm vehicles.

Another new law allows farm equipment dealers to designate truck drivers as their agents when moving equipment between the field and the dealership. Truckers are required to carry a written, signed and dated statement from the farm equipment dealer that they are acting as the dealer representative.

Previously LB1039, the new law also expands load limits for farm equipment haulers. Truckers acting as agents of farm equipment dealers are permitted to follow the same width, height and length restrictions reserved for dealers.

One more new rule covers spillage from livestock haulers on certain highways in the state. LB174 increases the mandatory-minimum penalty for manure and urine spills in certain instances.

Spills from livestock trucks that occur in urban areas would increase from a minimum of $100 to a minimum of $250. Revenue from fines will continue to be routed to public schools in the affected county.

Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha has said that there were 42 documented manure spills in south Omaha from August 2009 to October 2010.

Spilling from livestock trailers leaving south Omaha stockyards “has plagued my part of the state for generations,” Mello stated. “These spills are not only a potential public health hazard, but also have a tendency to cause numerous traffic accidents.

“It is my hope and the hope of south Omaha area businesses that an increase in the level of fines will serve as a deterrent for the few bad actors.”

Critics of the fine increase said it could damage Omaha’s meat-packing industry.

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