Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532

05/06/2006 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Time Change --
Moved SCS CSHB 381(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 266(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 403(TRA) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 304(FIN) am Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 409(L&C) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 240(FIN) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
     CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 266(FIN)                                                                                             
     "An  Act  relating to  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 date."                                                                      
This was  the first hearing for  this bill in the  Senate Finance                                                               
JENNIFER  BAXTER,  Staff  to Representative  Jim  Elkins,  Chair,                                                               
House  Transportation   Committee,  which  sponsors   this  bill,                                                               
explained the bill  would modify existing laws  pertaining to the                                                               
penalty  structure  for   overweight  vehicle  violations.  These                                                               
penalties  have not  increased since  their establishment  in the                                                               
Ms. Baxter  professed current penalties  do not  deter commercial                                                               
shipping  companies  and  others from  violating  vehicle  weight                                                               
limitations. In  addition, the bill  would protect  drivers cited                                                               
for  overweight  vehicle  violations  from  insurance  companies,                                                               
which might otherwise penalize  those drivers' private automobile                                                               
insurance  coverage. Oftentimes,  drivers of  commercial vehicles                                                               
have  little  control of  the  weight  loaded on  the  commercial                                                               
vehicles  they  are  assigned  to drive.  Thus,  the  bill  would                                                               
protect  drivers  who  are unknowingly  in  violation  of  weight                                                               
limits on the State's road system.                                                                                              
9:37:54 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dyson asked  whether  both the  owner  of an  overweight                                                               
truck and its non-owner driver could be cited for an offense.                                                                   
Ms. Baxter affirmed.                                                                                                            
Senator  Dyson  understood   therefore  that  the  aforementioned                                                               
insurance coverage  provision would  serve to protect  the driver                                                               
by prohibiting his  or her private vehicle  coverage insurer from                                                               
taking  punitive  action.  In  other  words,  the  driver  of  an                                                               
overweight vehicle  would not  be excused  from operating  a safe                                                               
and legal vehicle.                                                                                                              
Ms. Baxter stated that was correct.                                                                                             
9:39:06 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Wilken  recognized Aves Thompson, Director,  Division of                                                               
Measurement   Standards   &   Commercial   Vehicle   Enforcement,                                                               
Department of  Transportation and  Public Facilities as  being in                                                               
attendance.  Mr.  Thompson  consistently  acted  in  a  fair  and                                                               
responsible manner during the  numerous occasions Co-Chair Wilken                                                               
met with him about private business matters.                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Wilken stated  that under  Mr.  Thompson's tenure,  the                                                               
Division  has used  federal transportation  funds to  upgrade its                                                               
weights and  measures equipment. Commercial trucks  are no longer                                                               
required  to  pull into  weigh  stations  as scales  imbedded  in                                                               
roadways  could now  transmit weight  information to  a scale  as                                                               
trucks  travel along  at  55  miles per  hour.  The readings  are                                                               
accurate  and are  furthering the  effort  to prevent  overweight                                                               
vehicles from damaging State roads.                                                                                             
9:40:56 AM                                                                                                                    
AVES  THOMPSON, Director,  Division  of  Measurement Standards  &                                                               
Commercial Vehicle Enforcement,  Department of Transportation and                                                               
Public Facilities,  affirmed Ms. Baxter's testimony  on the bill.                                                               
The Division worked with the  bill's sponsor, the Alaska Trucking                                                               
Association, the  Alaska Teamsters,  and numerous  other entities                                                               
to develop a  bill with "reasonable ground"  that would recognize                                                               
the  Division's  role  in  trying   to  protect  the  State  road                                                               
infrastructure and  deter the  operation of  overweight vehicles.                                                               
This would  be the first  increase in associated  penalties since                                                               
the early  1970s. At  that time, the  penalties were  amongst the                                                               
highest in the nation; now they  are some of the nation's lowest.                                                               
The  proposed penalties  "are a  reasonable  increase" and  would                                                               
position  the  State  at  the mid-range  level.  The  bill  would                                                               
protect drivers  from unfair insurance increases,  would generate                                                               
a "fair increase" in penalty  revenue, and would deter overweight                                                               
vehicles' operation.                                                                                                            
9:42:46 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Stedman communicated  the ease  at which  a truck  could                                                               
experience an overweight  axel, particularly a front  axel in the                                                               
case of a  dump truck. Thus, he asked how  such a situation would                                                               
be accommodated, specifically with  the onset of imbedded scales.                                                               
In addition,  he asked  whether weight offenses  in the  range of                                                               
5,000 or 10,000 pounds were common.                                                                                             
Mr. Thompson  stated that the  Division would attempt  to address                                                               
these concerns in a couple of  ways. First would be the graduated                                                               
penalty  structure  proposed in  this  bill.  A truck  marginally                                                               
overweight would  not receive  a hefty  fine; however  a severely                                                               
overweight  truck  would  be  fined  "pretty  heavy".  Overweight                                                               
vehicles with  a "low-end"  violation of  between zero  and 2,000                                                               
pounds overweight could avoid a  citation were they able to shift                                                               
the load  weight to  the legal limits  before leaving  the weight                                                               
station. The Division  provides some leeway as  it does recognize                                                               
that  loading trucks  is not  "an exact  science" and  "sometimes                                                               
honest mistakes are made".                                                                                                      
Mr.  Thompson stated  that the  imbedded  scales were  a work  in                                                               
progress. They would  assist in speeding up the  flow of traffic,                                                               
and  they would  allow  the focus  to be  on  unsafe and  illegal                                                               
trucks rather than those that are safe and legal.                                                                               
9:45:06 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Dyson appreciated  the Division's "enlightened position",                                                               
as from personal experience he found  that not to have been their                                                               
position in the past.                                                                                                           
Senator  Dyson   ascertained  that  the  majority   of  the  bill                                                               
addressed penalty levels. The  insurance coverage provisions must                                                               
have  been included  to address  the  insurance methodology  that                                                               
counts  the  number of  citations  a  driver accumulates  against                                                               
their insurance  record; the fact  that these citations  were not                                                               
traffic or  safety related is  not recognized. To that  point, he                                                               
asked  whether this  issue  has been  a  "widespread problem"  in                                                               
Mr. Thompson responded that the  Division has received reports of                                                               
this  occurring. The  Alaska  Trucking  Association could  better                                                               
respond to the question.                                                                                                        
Co-Chair Green  understood that the  insurance industry  does not                                                               
object to the inclusion of the provision in the bill.                                                                           
Mr. Thompson  appreciated the Committee's  efforts in  regards to                                                               
the bill, as it is important to the Division.                                                                                   
Co-Chair Green acknowledged.                                                                                                    
9:47:04 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  BELL, Director,  Alaska Trucking  Association, testified                                                               
via  teleconference from  an offnet  location in  support of  the                                                               
bill. The  provision in the  bill that would  prohibit overweight                                                               
citations   from  affecting   a   driver's  personal   automobile                                                               
insurance  is important  as drivers  are seldom  "responsible for                                                               
loading  their  vehicles  and have  very  little  opportunity  to                                                               
adjust  a load  if  they  are overweight  on  an  axel or  gross"                                                               
weight. Roadways  would also benefit  from the bill, as  it would                                                               
discourage  continual overweight  violations. It  would encourage                                                               
the proper loading of a truck before it arrived at a scale.                                                                     
Senator Stedman  disclosed having  a commercial  driver's license                                                               
Co-Chair Green acknowledged there being a need for such a bill.                                                                 
Co-Chair  Wilken moved  to report  the bill  from Committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                       
There  being  no objection,  CS  HB  266(FIN) was  REPORTED  from                                                               
Committee with three  previous fiscal notes: zero  fiscal note #4                                                               
dated  January   23,  2006  from  the   Department  of  Commerce,                                                               
Community  and Economic  Development; zero  fiscal note  #5 dated                                                               
January  20,  2006  from the  Department  of  Transportation  and                                                               
Public  Facilities; and  zero fiscal  note #6  dated January  25,                                                               
2006 from the Department of Law.                                                                                                
9:49:07 AM                                                                                                                    

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