Pennsylvania lawmakers back changes to truck inspections, registration fees

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Multiple issues gaining traction at the Pennsylvania statehouse cover rules affecting truck drivers.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 13-1 to advance a bill that covers truck inspection requirements and registration fees.

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

HB1413 instead calls for annual inspections.

Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, notes that Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that still require semiannual inspections for affected vehicles. He said the change would save trucking operations money and allow them to move goods more efficiently.

“This bill would make Pennsylvania-based trucking companies more competitive,” Heffley previously said in prepared remarks. “Currently, many carriers register their vehicles out of state to avoid the costly and redundant mandates.”

He adds that the bill does not compromise safety because it would require Pennsylvania-based operations to be 100 percent compliant with all federal safety and inspection standards.

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. 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.”

The bill awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved, it would head to the governor’s desk. House lawmakers already approved it on a 118-66 vote.

Another bill halfway through the statehouse 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.

The House voted 120-80 to forward a bill that applies criminal penalties to HHG movers who fail to adhere to existing rules in the state.

“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,” stated Rep. Gary Day, R-Lehigh.

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.

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

One more bill of note would limit expenditures and transfers 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 $758 million. By fiscal year 2019-2020 the amount is expected to reach $1 billion.

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, explained to House members that the motor license fund is constitutionally protected for highway safety.

By fiscal year 2018-2019, his bill would cap funding from the motor license fund at $500 million for operations of the State Police. In future years, the Office of Budget would determine the limit to reflect upward changes in inflation, based on the consumer price index.

HB2255 is in the House Transportation Committee.

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

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