, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, June 22, 2017
Multiple laws of interest to professional drivers approved by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year are slated to take effect on July 1.
One new law brings the state in line with federal rules on size and weights. Among the provisions in the law is permission for vehicle and watercraft carriers to backhaul general cargo.
A separate provision increases the weight at which a vehicle must be inspected at a permanent weigh station to at least 10,000 pounds.
Another provision makes overweight permits available for tank vehicles hauling milk.
The changes bring the state into line with the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015. Noncompliance would have put the state at risk of losing out on 7 percent of federal-aid highway funds each federal fiscal year.
The Virginia Department of Transportation estimated noncompliance could cost the state $72.9 million of federal-aid highway funds in the next year.
Another new law covers overweight permits for trucks hauling asphalt.
Specifically, asphalt haulers are added to the list of vehicles whose owner or operator may obtain an overweight permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles to operate in certain counties. Exceptions are already available for haulers of gravel, sand, or crushed stone.
The new rule also specifies that vehicles with six axles must have no less than 40 feet between extreme axles to exceed gross weight limitations.
VDOT says adoption of the rule will likely result in slightly slowing the rate of deterioration on pavement and bridges in the affected counties. They say it requires minimum axle spacing for vehicles with a gross weight up to 110,000 pounds. The agency reports the change allows for better weight distribution for such vehicles.
A separate new law covers commercial driver’s licensing via community colleges.
Starting the first of July, “comprehensive” community colleges in the state system are permitted to administer the skills test to students enrolled in a commercial driver training course who have failed the CDL skills or written exams three times.
After the additional training, the DMV will be solely responsible for administering the applicable exam.
Another change in state law covers removal of vehicles and cargo following traffic incidents.
Specifically, vehicles and cargo that are impeding traffic flow due to a wreck must be removed from moving lanes. The Virginia Department of Transportation would also be able to clear vehicles from travel lanes if there are no injuries and the vehicle cannot be driven.
Drivers would be required to move a vehicle from the roadway after an emergency, wreck or breakdown that did not result in injury or death – if the vehicle is movable and the driver can do so safely.
Virginia law already allows affected vehicles to be moved, but it is not required.
About half of all states have in place authority removal laws, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The feds say the primary intent of the rule is “to expedite removal of damaged or disabled vehicles from the travel lanes to enhance the overall level of safety on the roadway and reduce associated congestion and delay.”
The Virginia DOT reports that losing one lane of traffic reduces highway capacity by 65 percent.
One more new law is intended to benefit prospective new motorists. Driver’s education courses taught in schools are required to include instruction on how to handle being stopped by law enforcement. The instruction at public schools will include details on law enforcement procedures for traffic stops.
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