Legislature(2005 - 2006)

04/12/2005 03:04 PM TRA

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03:04:14 PM Start
03:06:19 PM HB266
03:49:39 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 266-VEHICLE WEIGHTS AND INSURANCE                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR GATTO announced  that the first order  of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 266 "An  Act relating to offenses and penalties                                                               
for violation of vehicle weight  limitations; prohibiting the use                                                               
of  a  violation  of  a vehicle  weight  limitation  for  certain                                                               
personal  automobile  insurance   actions;  amending  Rule  43.6,                                                               
Alaska Rules  of Administration;  and providing for  an effective                                                               
AVES  D. THOMPSON,  Director, Division  of Measurement  Standards                                                               
and Commercial Vehicle  Enforcement, Department of Transportation                                                               
&  Public  Facilities,  Anchorage,  said  Section  1  of  HB  266                                                               
prohibits the  use of overweight  vehicle violations  by insurers                                                               
to  adversely impact  private automobile  insurance coverage  for                                                               
drivers.   He said the driver  often has little knowledge  of the                                                               
weight of his or her vehicle.   Section 2 increases penalties for                                                               
overweight  vehicle  violations, and  it  is  the first  increase                                                               
since  the  1970s, he  said.    Current  fines are  not  adequate                                                               
deterrents to overweight violations, he stated.                                                                                 
3:06:19 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. THOMPSON explained  that Section 3 establishes  a new offence                                                               
for carriers  who commit a  sufficient number of  violations that                                                               
constitutes  a  pattern.   The  maximum  fine  for a  pattern  of                                                               
violations is  $10,000, and it will  motivate commercial carriers                                                               
to be  much more  rigorous in following  weight limits,  he said.                                                               
The  damage to  streets and  highways from  overweight trucks  is                                                               
escalating,  he  noted, and  "we  need  to provide  a  sufficient                                                               
deterrent  to   the  loading  of  illegal,   overweight  trucks."                                                               
Personal  insurance rates  go  up  for drivers  who  are not  the                                                               
responsible party, he concluded.                                                                                                
3:08:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN said  he worked as a truck  driver, and the                                                               
individual driver doesn't  have much say in the  truck's load and                                                               
may not  be knowledgeable about the  load limits.  "I  just don't                                                               
think that  that's fair to put  that on there, let  alone, I know                                                               
the accuracy of some of the scales," he said.                                                                                   
3:10:39 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. THOMPSON said that is what  the bill is trying to address; it                                                               
will  take  away an  insurance  company's  ability to  blame  the                                                               
driver for those citations.   The new pattern offence is designed                                                               
to identify those dispatchers or  companies insisting the drivers                                                               
take the loads, he explained.                                                                                                   
3:11:39 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ELKINS asked about road damage by overweight vehicles.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS  said the  blatant violations are  the ones                                                               
that should be penalized.  He said he used to haul logs.                                                                        
MR.  THOMPSON  said  penalties increase  geometrically  with  the                                                               
weights, penalizing the worst violators more heavily.                                                                           
3:13:40 PM                                                                                                                    
BILLY   CONNOR,  Statewide   Research   Manager,  Department   of                                                               
Transportation  & Public  Facilities, Fairbanks,  said overweight                                                               
trucks contribute  to damage to  pavement and bridges,  which are                                                               
both  designed for  trucks,  not  cars.   There  are also  safety                                                               
concerns  because overloaded  trucks  can't stop  as quickly,  he                                                               
noted.   It costs the state  $500,000 per mile to  rehabilitate a                                                               
rural highway.   He gave an  example of the Parks  Highway, north                                                               
of Wasilla,  which is designed to  be used by 1.1  million trucks                                                               
over a  15-year period.  A  five-axle truck that is  4,000 pounds                                                               
overweight  is  equal  to  more  than four  average  trucks.    A                                                               
legally-loaded truck costs the state $0.70 per mile.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked what drivers contribute in fuel tax.                                                                       
3:19:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. CONNOR  said the fuel tax  provides about $0.02 per  mile, so                                                               
it does  not come anywhere near  paying for road maintenance.   A                                                               
trucker  carrying an  extra 4,000  pounds saves  about $1.00  per                                                               
mile, and  the state wants  to take  the profit motive  away from                                                               
violators to  help offset construction  and repair costs.   There                                                               
is also a cost in the delay to travelers, he added.                                                                             
3:22:02 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. CONNOR used the assumption that  the state is willing to bear                                                               
the cost  of a  legally loaded  truck.  He  said a  fine schedule                                                               
should pay for the damage and  public costs, and it should remove                                                               
the profit motive.  He said  HB 266 will generate about $147,000,                                                               
but  the  goal  is  reducing overweight  trucks,  not  generating                                                               
3:23:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked if a driver can get a permit for overloads.                                                                
MR. CONNOR said there is a permit policy.                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR  ELKINS said  an  overload permit  requires  a truck  to                                                               
drive slowly.                                                                                                                   
3:24:20 PM                                                                                                                    
BRAD BROWN, Horizon Lines, Anchorage,  Alaska, said he will speak                                                               
with  three   voices:  as  a   Horizon  Lines  employee,   as  an                                                               
owner/operator of a trucking business,  and as a retired trooper.                                                               
As  a  Horizon  Lines  employee  he said  he  is  in  support  of                                                               
increased scrutiny  of overweight loads.   The company  is trying                                                               
to  emphasize   accurate  documentation   of  its   shippers  who                                                               
sometimes overload  containers.  The  bill will also  release the                                                               
drivers of repercussions.                                                                                                       
3:26:30 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BROWN said  as  an  owner and  operator  of  a dirt  hauling                                                               
business, he is required to  measure trucks for allowable weight.                                                               
A  driver would  not  get a  weight ticket  unless  the load  was                                                               
legal, so  it is policing itself,  he added.  He  said being paid                                                               
by  the ton  is an  incentive to  overload.   As a  retired state                                                               
trooper,  he  said  he  operated portable  scales,  which  had  a                                                               
tolerance of 1,000 pounds and were kept current.                                                                                
3:28:23 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  ELKINS asked  if the  bill will  hinder small  carriers                                                               
from making a wage.                                                                                                             
MR.  BROWN said  not  if they  are operating  legally.   It  will                                                               
enhance the business when everyone has the same standard.                                                                       
3:30:31 PM                                                                                                                    
RICHARD  ASAY, Asay  Trucking,  Anchorage, said  Section  2 is  a                                                               
concern to the  "small guy."  The fines are  a little extreme, he                                                               
added.   He said he  has been trucking since  1962 and has  a few                                                               
overweight tickets.   "I  think that  if a  person gets  a 30,000                                                               
pound  ticket   he  needs  to   go  to  jail  ...   that's  gross                                                               
negligence."   He said  he would  call it  reckless driving.   He                                                               
said he  always gets  permitted.   "I think this  will be  a very                                                               
hard detriment on anybody that's a  small carrier with one or two                                                               
trucks," he concluded.                                                                                                          
3:32:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ELKINS  asked if  Mr. Asay meant  that the  driver would                                                               
have a  hard time  getting reimbursed from  the shipper  who made                                                               
the truck overweight.                                                                                                           
MR. ASAY said there is no way to go back to the shipper.                                                                        
CO-CHAIR  ELKINS  said  the  bill   allows  the  trucker  to  get                                                               
reimbursement from the shipper who violates the rule.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN asked if he  would often be in violation if                                                               
HB 266 were enacted.                                                                                                            
MR. ASAY  said no more often  than the past, and  that is seldom.                                                               
He said that there needs to be  an increase in the fines, but the                                                               
increase is "pretty steep."                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR GATTO said there have been no increases since 1974.                                                                    
MR. ASAY said truck revenue is less now than it was in 1985.                                                                    
3:35:03 PM                                                                                                                    
PAUL FUHS, Horizon Lines, Juneau, said  it is important to get to                                                               
the shippers who are responsible for  the load weight.  The state                                                               
can't write a ticket to a  shipper, because that would be a civil                                                               
action  that ends  up in  court, lasting  years and  costing huge                                                               
amounts  of money  for the  state.   In HB  266, the  driver will                                                               
charge the  shipper for the ticket,  and the driver does  not get                                                               
points on his  or her driver license.  He  noted a drafting error                                                               
on  page  3,  line  1,  relating  to  someone  who  intentionally                                                               
overloads a container  and misrepresents the load.   It should be                                                               
amended to say "shipper", not "driver", he said.                                                                                
3:37:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO offered conceptual Amendment 1 as follows:                                                                       
     Page 3, line 2, after "to a"                                                                                               
     Delete "motor carrier"                                                                                                     
     Insert "shipper"                                                                                                           
There being no objection, conceptual Amendment 1 carried.                                                                       
3:39:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  ELKINS said  the fines  have not  been increased  since                                                               
1974.  The bill is a good step in the right direction.                                                                          
CO-CHAIR ELKINS  moved to report  HB 266, Version F,  as amended,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON objected.   He said the fines  are too high                                                               
for small private carriers, and it won't hurt the big carriers.                                                                 
CO-CHAIR  GATTO asked  if it  is  because a  small company  loads                                                               
trucks without a scale.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON  said, "When  you start fining  these small                                                               
people ... then their profits start coming down."                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN asked what an alternative would be.                                                                       
CO-CHAIR GATTO  said there  is no  secondary schedule  for fines.                                                               
He noted that the committee got  a good presentation on why it is                                                               
important  not to  damage roads,  and the  costs associated  with                                                               
fixing them.   The fines do not cover all  the damage, so someone                                                               
could say the fines were too low, he said.                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR ELKINS said the damage to  the highway is the same for a                                                               
small or big operator.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN  said a truck driver  moving equipment does                                                               
not  have  a  "weight  guy,"   and  trying  to  judge  weight  is                                                               
difficult.  Containers  have a bill of lading, he  noted, so that                                                               
is different.   "The guy who  is traveling down the  road and all                                                               
of a  sudden road restrictions  are on,  and he gets  caught," he                                                               
said.  It is serious money coming out of their pocket.                                                                          
CO-CHAIR  ELKINS  said  a  trucker  has the  ability  to  get  an                                                               
overweight permit to travel the  appropriate speed on any highway                                                               
or road in the state of Alaska.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING  said   he  agrees  with  Representatives                                                               
Neuman and Salmon.                                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR GATTO said airplanes have professional loaders.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS declared that  greed comes in all fashions,                                                               
and there  are those who  see an opportunity  to make a  few more                                                               
bucks by  being illegal, "and  they don't care about  the roads."                                                               
He said truckers know the weight; they know what they're doing.                                                                 
3:45:50 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS said it is  also a safety issue, "You drive                                                               
down with a school  bus in front of you and  lose your brakes and                                                               
wipe  them out--you  go  tell  the parents  we  failed this  bill                                                               
because we were greedy for the little guy."                                                                                     
3:46:40 PM                                                                                                                    
A roll call vote was  taken.  Representatives Elkins, Thomas, and                                                               
Gatto  voted  in  favor  of  HB  266.    Representatives  Salmon,                                                               
Kohring, and Neuman voted against  it.  Therefore, CSHB 266 (TRA)                                                               
failed to  move from the House  Transportation Standing Committee                                                               
by a vote of 3-3.                                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR GATTO said he will continue to hold the bill.                                                                          

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