Pennsylvania lawmakers to review rules on HHG movers, truck inspections

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, January 08, 2016

As Pennsylvania state lawmakers return to work for discussion on new bills and legislation carried over from the 2015 regular session, they are expected to address issues that include rules that affect truck drivers.

A bill in the House Transportation Committee would 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.

Rep. Gary Day, R-Lehigh, said the bill targets movers who “advertise themselves as household goods movers on websites such as Craigslist.”

“This type of behavior is dangerous and misleading to consumers because they do not carry the proper credentials or insurance needed to protect consumers and their property,” Day wrote.

His bill, HB1769, calls for offenders to face $5,000 fines, a third degree misdemeanor, suspension of registration and/or confiscation and impoundment of the motor vehicle used in the illegal move. Subsequent offenses could result in $10,000 fines.

A similar Senate-approved bill, SB857, includes the possibility of one year behind bars for repeat offenders.

Fine revenue in both measures would be used to help PUC motor carrier enforcement efforts.

The House Transportation Committee approved a separate bill that 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, recently said Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that still require semi-annual inspections for affected vehicles. In a memo to lawmakers 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.

A change made to the bill in committee specifies that refunds would be prorated based on the number of months the vehicle was operational.

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.”

Another bill of interest would limit disbursements from the motor license fund to the State Police.

In the past decade, funding from the motor license fund has increased from $436 million to $676 million, according to state figures. The budget for 2016 puts the amount at $757 million. By fiscal year 2019-2020 the amount is expected to reach $1 billion.

Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, said the amount “is simply not sustainable.”

His bill would cap funding from the motor license fund at $500 million for operations of the State Police.

SB1089 awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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

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