Pennsylvania lawmakers support changes to truck rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/6/2015

Pennsylvania state lawmakers remain active this fall and they are showing support for issues that affect truck drivers.

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law a bill to eliminate the mandatory escort of super-sized loads by the State Police.

Previously SB748, the new law authorizes the use of “certified pilot escorts.” 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 also a $2 per mile plus overtime for the police escort.

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

“Allowing qualified private operators to escort super loads will help mitigate a serious problem for the State Police while maintaining the oversight needed to ensure the safety of motorists,” Argall said in prepared remarks.

He added that the growing number of road and bridge projects across the state makes it extremely important to explore alternatives to a State Police escort for all supersized loads.

The rule change takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

In other action at the statehouse, Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to advance another bill from Argall to boost penalties for “rogue” commercial household goods movers operating in the state.

State law now requires HHG movers to register and obtain a permit with the Public Utility Commission, maintain workers compensation coverage, pay wages subject to taxation, and have adequate insurance coverage for goods moved.

Argall said that despite efforts to enforce current rules, “a strong underground market exists among household goods movers.”

His bill calls for offenders to face $5,000 fines, a third degree misdemeanor, suspension of registration, and forfeiture of the motor vehicle used in the illegal move. Subsequent offenses could result in $10,000 fines and one year behind bars.

Fine revenue would be used to help the motor carrier enforcement efforts of the Public Utility Commission.

“In current practice, it is actually cheaper for many companies to pay the fine rather than comply with the law,” Argall stated. “The flimsy penalties are actually discouraging companies from following the letter of the law.”

The bill, SB857, awaits further consideration in the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

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

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