Pennsylvania lawmakers endorse changes to truck rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/13/2015

In recent action at the state capitol, Pennsylvania lawmakers are moving forward on issues that include addressing rules that affect truck drivers.

The House voted 187-6 to approve 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 $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 recent remarks. “Allowing qualified private operators to escort super loads will remove this burden while maintaining the oversight needed to ensure the safety of motorists.”

The bill, SB748, now moves back to the Senate for approval of changes before it can move to the governor’s desk. If signed into law, the change would take effect in 60 days.

A separate bill nearing passage would sync the state’s code with federal CDL regulations on license testing and learner’s permit standards. The state was supposed to make the changes by July 8, 2015.

House lawmakers voted unanimously to approve a bill that includes provisions to clarify that an employer is prohibited from knowingly permitting a driver to get behind the wheel if they are under a license restriction, and provides that a skills test from another state must be accepted and that interpreters are not permitted during the test.

The bill, SB925, is headed back to the Senate for final approval.

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 during recent discussion on the bill the importance of passing the rule changes.

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

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

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