Statehouse Primer

By Mike Matousek, OOIDA Director of state legislative affairs

Lawmakers are generally well-intentioned. Unfortunately, some are also misinformed or unaware of the impact their legislative proposals will have on people. It’s actually a dangerous combination: lawmakers that want to get something done so badly but do not fully understand what it is they are actually getting done. This is an ongoing saga now playing out in Missouri.

HB1733 is a mini-transportation bill of sorts, dealing with issues from autocycles – those three-wheel enclosed vehicles – and emergency vehicles to making small technical fixes to existing law.

However, there is also a provision that appears to impose a lifetime ban from driving a school bus for any individual who has their license suspended or revoked twice in the state for any reason.

In Missouri, your license can be suspended for failing to maintain adequate insurance, not paying child support, and other things that have nothing to do with a person’s ability to drive a school bus.

As you know, there are existing laws that address actions that disqualify a person from operating a commercial motor vehicle, most notably 383.51 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

For example, you’re not allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol or leave the scene of an accident. If you violate these rules, the punishments are generally swift and harsh.

While we clearly do not condone unlawful actions, we believe the school bus provision in HB1733 is bad policy and bad precedent. Imagine if the same standard was applied to all CDL holders.

The bill was approved by the Missouri House and Senate earlier this year. Accordingly, we reached out to Gov. Jay Nixon to request that he veto this legislation.

The governor has since vetoed the bill over concern about other provisions in the legislation.

In neighboring Kentucky, the state recently requested that the Federal Highway Administration delete Kentucky Route 151 from the National Network. In effect, this would allow the state to implement a truck ban on this road. That is their goal.

Kentucky’s request is pending before FHWA and was open to public comment through July 15 in the Federal Register. There are certainly bigger, more wide-ranging issues that OOIDA is working on and keeping trucks off this route probably isn’t the end of the world. But that’s not the point.

According to a recent article by Land Line Magazine, “…there were 99 crashes on the highway from 2013 to 2015, 11 involving commercial vehicles. The data did not determine fault.” In other words, at least 89 percent of the crashes did not involve a commercial vehicle.

OOIDA filed comments to the docket, FHWA-2016-0012, to remind FHWA that our nation’s roads and bridges are built to connect cities and towns, improve safety, and facilitate commerce. Further, unnecessarily restricting truck traffic jeopardizes the connectivity, safety, and efficiency that all motorists have grown accustomed to, especially under the guise of safety.

We also suggested that other alternatives exist, such as better enforcement of existing traffic laws or reconfiguration of existing lanes. This would arguably have a more positive impact on safety and not burden commerce or our nation’s truck drivers.

At press time, the issue is pending further action from FHWA.

We will continue to make sure your voice is heard on these and many other issues of interest. And as always, please feel free to contact me at Mike_Matousek@OOIDA.com if there is an issue that you think we need to be aware of.