Legislation filed this session by Rep. James White (R-Hillister) would change many requirements for trucks hauling timber or timber products, including increasing the load carried on any tandem axle of the vehicle to 44,000 pounds. HB 777 is a product of negotiations from stakeholders, including representatives from the timber industry, county government and state government.
The engrossed version of the bill passed by the House on Monday, May 6, includes changes in civil penalties, new weight limitations, permitting fees and requirements and notification requirements. More details of the changes include:
Civil Penalties — Failure to notify the county or state could result in a $1,000 fine. Failure to obtain a permit could result in a $5,000 fine. Collected monies must be deposited to the road and bridge fund of the county where the violation occurred.
Weight Limit Increase — A properly permitted vehicle carrying timber or timber products may carry up to 44,000 pounds on any tandem axle, not to exceed the gross load carrying limit of 80,000 pounds.
To Qualify for a Permit — Pay a permit fee of $800 and designate in the permit each county in which the vehicle will be operated. The permit is issued by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and is valid for one year.
Disposition of the fee — Half of the permit fee collected shall be deposited in the state highway fund and the other 50 percent shall be divided among all counties designated in the permit according to the ratio of the total amount of timber harvested in each county.
Notification — Establishes the “financially responsible party” as the vehicle owner, operator or person that hires, leases, rents or subcontracts the vehicle for use on a county or state road. A properly permitted, financially responsible party shall execute a notification document and agree to reimburse the county or state for road damages.
Notification Document — Must include the name and address of the financially responsible party, the location(s) where they wish to operate and a designation of the specific route of travel, including the name or number of each road. Also required is a calendar schedule that includes days and hours of operation, a list of each vehicle by license plate number and a description by which financial responsibility is established. The document must be filed electronically two days prior to operation. Counties may conduct an inspection of the designated route and then must share the inspection documentation with the financially responsible party.
HB 777 was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on May 8.
Status of Other Transportation Bills:
HB 1607 by Farney — Allowing a commissioners court to set the speed limit on a county road or highway up to 70 miles per hour. Current law allows for a maximum of 60 miles per hour. Scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on May 13.
HB 2304 by Rodriguez — Allowing a sheriff or sheriff’s deputy to apply for certification to enforce commercial motor vehicle standards in counties with a population of 1 million or more (the current threshold is 2.2 million). Placed on the Senate Intent Calendar for May 10.
HB 1290 by Phillips — Allowing cities and counties that have designated a transportation reinvestment zone for the same transportation project or projects to enter into an agreement to provide for the joint administration of the transportation reinvestment zones. The agreement may provide for the establishment of a joint tax increment account, separate accounts for the maintenance of funds from a zone, and the commitment of each participating entity to transfer the tax increment or a portion thereof to an account subject to the joint administration. Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on April 18.
HB 3664 by Darby — Raising the motor vehicle registration by an average of $30 a year. Postponed on the House Calendar until May 28, procedurally killing the legislation.
SB 1747 by Uresti — Creating county energy transportation reinvestment zones. Left pending in the House Energy Resources Committee on May 8.
Road Damage Legislation
HB 1025 by Pitts — Providing $110 million from general revenue to TxDOT to repair damages to roads and bridges caused by oversize and overweight vehicles used in the development and production of energy. The bill was amended to require not less than 50 percent of the funds be distributed to counties in oil and gas production regions for the purpose of maintaining and repairing roads affected by increased energy production activities. Referred to the Senate Finance Committee on April 29.
HB 2612 by Flynn — Allowing a commissioners court to identify an alternate route to a road and require heavy vehicles travel the alternate route to prevent excessive damage to the road. The alternate route must be of sufficient strength and design to withstand the weight of the vehicles traveling the route. The bill also allows a road supervisor to prohibit or restrict any vehicle that will unduly damage a road the use of a road under the supervisor’s control, if an alternative, more suitable road is available within the county at that time, in certain circumstances. Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on May 9.
SB 1670 by Nichols — Increasing fees for excess axle and gross weight vehicle permits. Reported from the House Transportation Committee on May 2.
SB 1671 by Nichols — Increasing civil and criminal penalties for violations relating to oversize or overweight vehicles. Reported from the House Transportation Committee on May 6.