Texas laws revise multiple truck enforcement, size and weight rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Texas lawmakers have acted in recent weeks to adopt changes to truck rules that include platooning, truck enforcement, and size and weights.

Truck platooning is the topic of one new law. State law has set guidelines intended for safe following distance behavior. However, there is no specific distance requirements.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill to revise state law to define “connected braking.” Statute also covers the use of affected vehicles to maintain distance.

Previously HB1791, the new law took effect immediately.

Multiple new laws in effect Sept. 1 cover size and weight rules.

One new law covers permits for oversize and overweight loads in Chambers County. State law already permits oversize and overweight vehicles along state Highway 99 between its crossing with Cedar Bayou and its intersection with Interstate 10.

Advocates said existing law is unclear and has created confusion on whether oversize and overweight vehicles are allowed on the affected stretch of highway. As a result, they say the confusion has hindered access for heavy-haul trucks in and out of the Port of Houston.

SB1291 expands the portion of SH 99 where such vehicles are issued permits. Specifically, permits could be issued on the frontage road of SH 99. The portion of highway that is tolled is excluded.

A separate new law covers counties and municipalities that enforce truck rules. Specifically, HB2065 requires affected locales to file annual reports detailing the amount of fines collected and the actual expenses incurred for enforcement.

A county or municipality is permitted to retain fines in an amount up to 110 percent of their actual expenses for enforcement. All additional fine revenue will be routed to TxDOT.

Another new law, HB1355, adds Midlothian to the municipalities that are permitted to enforce commercial motor vehicle safety rules.

Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said during a recent hearing on the bill the community south of Dallas-Fort Worth will benefit from increased enforcement authority in efforts to maintain roadways.

HB1570 grants the same authority for the neighboring city of Alvarado.

Birdwell added that the changes in HB1355 and HB1570 are not intended to be revenue builders. He said he supports HB2065 to limit revenue retained by local enforcement.

Also signed into law is a bill, HB4156, covering movement of oversize and overweight vehicles along certain roadways to the Port of Freeport.

The $80 per-trip permit fee will be designated solely for maintenance and improvements to designated roadways in Matagorda and Brazoria counties.

Another new law increases the fee for permits issued for movement of oversize and overweight vehicles carrying cargo on certain roads in Hidalgo County. The fee can be increased from $80 to $200.

The Texas Department of Transportation reports the area’s regional mobility authority issued 24,600 permits in fiscal year 2016. At $80 per trip the permits raised about $1.97 million in fee revenue.

SB2227 could result in annual permit revenue totaling $4.92 million, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill.

Supporters said the $80 fee is too low when compared to the effort required by regional authorities to issue permits and maintain the registration system. Opponents said it has only been four years since the last fee increase. Another increase places an additional burden on operations moving cargo through the county.

Already in effect, one new law exempts certain large trucks from required annual safety inspections. HB1793 applies to trucks not domiciled in the state, as long as they are registered in the state, and have been issued a certificate of inspection in compliance with federal regulations.

Trucks registered in the International Registration Plan, and vehicles issued a certificate of inspection in compliance with federal regulations, will also be exempt from annual safety inspections.

Vehicles exempted from safety inspections are required to pay the same fees required by trucks not exempted from inspections.

Two more new laws are in effect Jan. 1. HB3254 allows a motor carrier whose registration was revoked to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for reregistration up to 180 days after the date the registration was revoked. A $10 fee per application is attached.

Knowingly operating, leasing, or assigning a person to drive a large truck with an unsatisfactory rating would be a state jail felony punishable up to one year behind bars if the vehicle is involved in a wreck that results in injury. Incidents that cause a death could result in a prison term of up to 20 years.

SB1383 authorizes the DMV to issue a permit authorizing the movement of fluid milk by trucks up to 90,000 pounds and within specified axle weight limitations.

Annual permit fees are set at $1,200. Applicants for permits would be required to designate the counties they intend to operate.

TxDMV estimates about 20 permits will be issued each fiscal year.

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

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