Pennsylvania lawmakers pursue changes to truck rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/17/2015

As fall nears, state lawmakers in Pennsylvania continue to put in work on issues that include addressing multiple rules that affect truck drivers.

One Senate-approved bill awaiting consideration on the House floor would sync the state’s code with federal CDL regulations on license testing and learner’s permit standards.

Specifically, SB925 includes provisions to clarify that an employer is prohibited from knowingly permitting any driver under a license restriction to get behind the wheel, and provides that a skills test from another state must be accepted and that interpreters are not permitted during the test.

Failure to adopt the new rules could cost the state money. Federal regulation authorizes a penalty of up to 5 percent, or about $57 million for Pennsylvania, of certain federal-aid highway funds for failure to be in compliance. After one year, the amount can double.

House Transportation Chairman John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, emphasized for committee members during an earlier hearing on the bill the importance of passing the rule changes.

“We are going to be penalized severely if we don’t come into compliance.”

The bill awaits further consideration in the House. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill by unanimous consent.

Also awaiting House floor consideration is a bill to eliminate the mandatory escort of super-sized loads by the State Police. Instead, certified pilot escorts could be used. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and state troopers would provide oversight.

Currently, any load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide requires a police escort. The transporting company pays a $50 setup fee and pays $2 per mile plus overtime for the police escort.

Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, has said existing rules place a burden on State Police, often requiring officers to work overtime.

“These demands will only grow as additional road and bridge improvement projects begin across the state,” Argall said in a previous news release. “Allowing qualified private operators to escort super loads will remove this burden while maintaining the oversight needed to ensure the safety of motorists.”

If approved by the full House, SB748 would head back to the Senate for consideration of changes before it can move to the governor’s desk.

One more bill in the House Transportation Committee covers the frequency of truck inspections.

State law now mandates that trucks with a registered gross weight in excess of 17,000 pounds undergo semi-annual inspections.

HB1413 instead calls for annual inspections.

Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, said Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that still require semi-annual inspections for affected vehicles. In a memo to all House members, he wrote “the existing rule creates a lot of problems with numerous Pennsylvania companies who work nationwide and ultimately has a negative effect on business.”

Heffley said his bill would save trucking operations money and allow them to move goods more efficiently.

Also included in the bill is a provision to allow truck operations to be refunded their registration fee if a truck is stolen or demolished, and the vehicle cannot be replaced.

Heffley points out that registration fees for trucks in excess of 17,000 pounds are more than $2,000.

“Refunding registration fees in this instance would relieve the hardship for many small Pennsylvania motor truck businesses.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania, click here.

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