Could Ohio lump truckers with traffickers?

By Keith Goblestate legislative editor

An effort underway at the Ohio statehouse to get tough with drug trafficking is drawing a lot of attention. Check that. It is drawing a lot of ire from truck drivers who feel as if they are being lumped with traffickers, and losing another personal freedom in the process.

At issue is a bill to target hidden compartments in vehicles, including large trucks and trailers. The legislation is part of an anti-drug trafficking effort outlined by Gov. John Kasich.

Vehicles found to include hidden compartments, with or without drugs, could result in severe consequences for the person behind the wheel, and the owner. Offenders could face up to 18 months in jail and $5,000 fines.

On the list of no-no’s the bill appears to address are safes, lockboxes and other compartments retrofitted to vehicles to protect possessions. At this time, it is important to note that only compartments added after the vehicle leaves the factory are targeted.

That clarification does little to soothe truckers who travel Ohio roads.

The authority given to law enforcement could cause a lot of trouble for truckers who rely on such “hidden compartments” to protect their stuff, such as cash needed to operate their business.

Since I first covered the bill, I’ve received input from numerous professional drivers who have real concerns about what would be classified as a compartment and what privacy rights are being violated.

Most are well aware that this push represents yet another instance of the government being overzealous in trying to control the trucking industry.

It will be interesting to see how Ohio lawmakers massage the issue in an effort to garner support in the months ahead.

There certainly are many concerns that are not going to be eased by simply trying to reassure the public that such action is needed to help the state win the drug war.

In addition to the valid issues voiced to this point, you must also question the effect such a rule would have in stemming the flow of drugs in and through Ohio. However, there is little question about the hassle and harassment that truckers could soon experience traveling into the state. LL