Legislative issues affecting truckers still in the works
Measures covering speed limits, fuel taxes, dangerous drivers and local enforcement are among those still being considered

As the end of the year draws closer, a handful of state legislatures are still in session, and several trucking-related bills remain up in the air.

The most pressing matter left unresolved for drivers may be in Illinois, where a proposal to establish uniform speed limits was on Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s desk at press time, awaiting his expected veto. SB2374 would eliminate provisions in state law that set a slower speed limit for any vehicle weighing more than 8,000 pounds traveling on rural interstates. If it’s vetoed by the governor, bill supporters are likely to seek an override, which would require a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to vote in favor of the measure, which is intended to improve road safety.

A similar issue is under consideration in Ohio, where two identical proposals also seek to eliminate split speeds. HB186 and SB94, carried over from the 2003 legislative session, would eliminate provisions in state law that set a slower speed limit for vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds. Each bill is in its respective transportation committee.

In New Jersey, however, a bill before the Assembly Transportation Committee would eliminate uniform speeds on rural highways in the state. A557 calls for restricting trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds and hazardous materials haulers to 55 mph. All other vehicles would be allowed to continue to travel at the current 65 mph limit.

Fuel-cost initiatives
California and North Carolina are reviewing measures that would affect the price of fuel at the pump. Legislation in the Golden State would have all drivers digging a little deeper into their pockets to fuel up. SB1614 would increase the state’s tax on fuel by 10 cents a gallon, while AB2847 would only go half as deep, increasing the tax by a nickel.

In North Carolina, two identical bills would instead give all drivers a price break when filling up. H1661 and S1278 would cap a portion of the state’s fuel tax that rises with wholesale prices. The variable rate is a small portion of the state’s 24-cent-a-gallon fuel tax. It is adjusted twice yearly. At press time, the bills remained under consideration with legislators expected to adjourn for the year July 30.

Safety measures
Michigan, New York and North Carolina each have proposals intended to help make roadways safer by targeting dangerous drivers. In Michigan, people who drive after going without sleep for more than 24 hours and cause the death of another person could be charged with a misdemeanor. Under HB5707, the tired driver could spend up to two years in prison and face a $2,000 fine.

A New York bill would make inattentive driving a traffic infraction. A3546 defines inattentive driving as a non-driving activity that “unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway.” Under the bill, any person who interferes with the flow of traffic as a result of inattentive driving would face a fine between $50 and $250. Offenses include eating, reading and even sleeping.

In North Carolina, a bill — H1046 — on Gov. Mike Easley’s desk would charge any driver cited for speeding or reckless driving while committing two other traffic violations with aggressive driving. Violators could face 120 days in jail.

A New Jersey bill — S525 — would allow sheriffs to weigh, measure and inspect commercial vehicles. Current state law relegates weighing and inspections to the State Police. State Police would keep the sole authority to conduct random roadside weight checks.

—by Keith Goble, state legislative editor
Keith Goble can be reached at Mark Reddig of Land Line contributed to this report.