States roll out new laws

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

Truckers must be on constant watch for new rules that could affect them as they drive from point A to point B. Fresh off legislative action in states stretching from Washington to West Virginia, July is one of the leading months for new laws to take effect. Below are the most significant laws that Land Line found:

Arkansas trafficking

A first-of-its-kind statute requires commercial driver’s licensing tie-ins with efforts to combat trafficking. Specifically, starting July 1 a training course on human trafficking is in place for CDL applicants and truckers renewing their licenses. The course is free.

Georgia idling

Effective July 1, a new law increases the incentive to get truck drivers to stop idling. To encourage the use of idling-reduction equipment, previous state law had authorized heavy-duty trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound maximum weight limit by 400 pounds.

The 2012 federal transportation law included a provision to allow states to increase their APU weight exemption to 550 pounds.

Georgia’s new law increases the state’s 400-pound exemption to 550 pounds.

Idaho speed limits

A new rule in effect the first of the month permits motorists and motorcyclists to exceed the posted speed limit by up to 15 mph while passing on two-lane highways. Affected roadways must have posted speeds of at least 55 mph.

Indiana roundabouts

As of July 1, operators of smaller vehicles are required to yield the right-of-way to large trucks when driving through roundabouts. The rule applies when the driver of the smaller vehicle is driving through the traffic pattern at or near the same time. For occurrences where two large trucks are approaching a roundabout at about the same time, the vehicle on the right is required to yield the right-of-way. For more information, see Page 36.

Kentucky weights

A new law in effect July 1 adds feed haulers to the list of loads permitted to top the 80,000-pound threshold on two-lane and four-lane state highways. State law already permits a 10 percent weight tolerance for certain loads. The loads are not permitted on interstate highways.

The new law adds trucks hauling feed for livestock or poultry. The change also permits livestock and agriculture haulers to exceed the gross weight provisions by four tons to make their first stop.

Nevada left lane

Effective the first of the month is a new law limiting left-lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. State law already prohibits slow driving in the left lane. A minimum speed is also in place. The new law applies to any vehicle hanging out in the far left lane on multi-lane highways.

Tennessee protests

Starting July 1, the fine for protests that obstruct a roadway is increased from $50 to $200. The rule covers any incident that impedes an emergency vehicle from responding to an emergency.

Virginia left lane

Four new laws are in effect the first of July. The first law is intended to deter driving in the far left-hand lane. Commonwealth law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. The new law sets minimum fines at $100 for driving too slowly in the left lane.

A separate new law covers commercial driver’s licensing via community colleges. “Comprehensive” community colleges in the state system are now 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 new law specifies that vehicles and cargo impeding traffic flow due to a wreck must be removed from moving lanes. The Virginia DOT is also able to clear vehicles from travel lanes if there are no injuries and the vehicle cannot be driven. Drivers are 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.

Also effective is a law to bring 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.

Washington

Starting July 23, restrictions on drivers’ use of electronic devices are updated. State law already prohibits the use of handheld devices to make phone calls. Text messaging is also outlawed. Use of a hands-free device to make a phone call however is permitted.

The new law covers other uses for electronic devices that drivers access while behind the wheel. Examples include Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Violations will be a primary offense, and reported to insurance companies.

There are some exceptions to the new rule included for commercial drivers. Specifically, use of a device within the scope of employment as allowed by federal law is permitted. The use of CB radios is also allowed.

West Virginia

Effective July 7, one new law is intended to help start-ups in the household goods moving industry. State law has required owners of household goods companies to approve new businesses. The new law exempts HHG carriers from jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. The certificate of need requirement for intrastate operations is also removed.

A second new law in effect July 6 covers overweight permits for loads up to 120,000 pounds. Specifically, permits can be issued for trucks to haul overweight divisible loads bound for outside of the country along designated routes. Included is a requirement for carriers to show that the load does not create “undue damage” to the roadways and bridges on the designated route.

Wyoming

Two new laws in effect July 1 cover vehicle-related fees. Specific to commercial vehicles, the first law increases the state registration fee for 80,000-pound trucks to $907.50 – up from $825. The highway use tax for the same vehicles is also raised from $1,400 to $1,540.

A second law doubles multiple drivers’ license fees. CDLs are up to $50; commercial learner’s permits and CDL renewals or duplicates are $40; and CDL skills tests cost $80.