OOIDA State Watch

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor


A bill headed to the governor’s desk would authorize 75-mph travel on interstates – up from 70 mph. Other highways would have speeds increased from 60 mph to 65 mph. If the speed changes are signed into law, the state Highway and Transportation Department would need to complete engineering studies before any changes are made.


One bill halfway through the statehouse would repeal collection of the commercial distribution fee for trucks in the state. The amount is a 14.35 percent surcharge of the annual registration fees. HB386 would take effect July 1, 2018.

A Senate bill would increase the speed limit on highways and interstates. SB2036 would raise speeds from 70 mph to 75 mph on most major interstates outside of Chicago. Specifically, the speeds would be increased on Interstate 355, I-80 and every interstate west of I-355 and south of I-80. Speeds on highways, other than interstates, with fewer than four lanes would be posted at 60 mph – up from 55 mph.


The Senate unanimously approved a bill that covers taking steps to curb human trafficking. SB179 would require CDL applicants and truckers renewing their licenses to complete a training course on human trafficking.


Gov. Matt Bevin has signed into law two bills of interest. HB265 covers the transportation of farm equipment. State law requires large equipment that includes farm tractors to have outer wheels removed from the axles and transported separately. The new law expands the state’s definition of non-divisible loads to include transportation of farm equipment.

HB174 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 loads that include fill dirt and rock, coal, concrete, solid waste, livestock, and farm crops. Affected loads are not permitted on interstate highways. The change also permits livestock and agriculture haulers to exceed the gross weight provisions by 4 tons to make their first stop.


Gov. John Kasich has signed a two-year, $7.8 billion transportation budget bill. HB26 introduces new traffic management techniques that are intended to enhance traffic flow on certain state highways and keep traffic moving during rush hours via variable speed limits and hard shoulder running. A pilot program is included in Clinton, Franklin, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery and Stark counties to reduce commercial vehicle registrations from $30 to $15. The Registrar of Motor Vehicles is required to study the effect of lowering the fees for possible expansion.


A House bill would mandate towing companies involved with a nonconsensual tow to provide an itemized invoice. Invoices would also be required to include a “no liability without itemization” provision intended to protect consumers. LD1022 also requires that a noncompliance penalty provision be established for towing companies. Another provision would require towing companies to release commercial cargo prior to a towing invoice being paid.


House lawmakers voted to advance a bill to limit left lane use for passing only. State law now only requires drivers to stay to the right if they are traveling at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit, or slower than the flow of traffic. HB1451 would apply to roadways with at least three lanes, and a posted speed of 55 mph or more. Certain exceptions would apply.


One House bill would prohibit certain traffic-stop related information from being used in law enforcement officer job performance evaluations. HF796 would forbid the number of traffic stops made or traffic enforcement activity from being included in evaluations.


One bill moving through the House includes provisions described as bringing the state into compliance with federal rules on vehicle haulers. HB542 covers the overhang allowance for automobile transporters. Specifically, the bill would alter the state’s definitions of an automobile transporter and a boat transporter.


Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to approve a bill intended to reduce road rage. HB415 would clarify what is and is not permissible when using the left lane. The bill is headed to the House for approval of changes before moving to the governor’s desk.


A bill on the governor’s desk would use money from the state’s general fund to extend hours of commercial operation at the federally operated Santa Teresa Port of Entry. Operating hours at the facility are listed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. HB91 would keep the facility open until midnight for imports on weeknights.


The House voted to advance a bill to the Senate to limit left lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. HB2312 includes exceptions for actions such as passing another vehicle.


A House bill covers concerns about police ticket quotas. HB3368 would prohibit law enforcement agencies from having or establishing arrest or citation quota policy. Agencies would also be forbidden to use the number of arrests or citations made by officers in evaluating their job performance.


Two efforts at the statehouse are of note. SB1550 calls for a study by the state DOT on the effects of restricting trucks from the far left lane. Study results would be submitted to the governor and Legislature by Dec. 1, 2018.

HB2166 addresses nonconsensual vehicle tows. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation would be required to establish fees for nonconsensual tows. Political subdivisions would also be allowed to regulate fees as long as such fees are authorized by commission rule and do not exceed the maximum amount authorized by the commission. LL