Massachusetts leaders push for tougher truck laws

January 9, 2020

Keith Goble

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Pursuit has been renewed in Massachusetts to change the state’s truck laws and raise standards for commercial driver’s licenses above the minimum requirements of federal law

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation on the first full day of the new session that action needs to be taken to address concerns about CDL licensing in the state.

The meeting marks the third time since July 2019 she has provided testimony to the panel on the issue of tougher truck laws.

Reaction to fatal crash

Gov. Charlie Baker last summer took action on the truck law issue following a deadly crash in June 2019 that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire. The motorcyclists were struck by a truck driven by a Massachusetts CDL holder.

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Connecticut officials reportedly alerted Massachusetts twice about a May 11, 2019, drunken driving arrest against Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to suspend the 23-year-old’s license in the month leading up to the June 21 crash.

Baker introduced a bill, H3980, to raise state standards for obtaining CDLs. The governor said after introducing his truck laws bill that, although the Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act prior to the incident, more can be done to prevent other incidents.

“My administration’s review has revealed a broader need to strengthen the Commonwealth’s laws regulating commercial driver’s licenses to ensure that only safe and qualified drivers are authorized to operate the largest vehicles on our roads,” Baker said in a letter to Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers.

Baker’s bill

Among the provisions in the governor’s changes to truck laws is a requirement of applicants for a CDL to demonstrate “a history of good driving.” Applicants would also be ineligible for licensure if they have been suspended or disqualified from driving at any time in the past three years.

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Additionally, suspension periods would be raised for CDL operators who commit multiple, serious traffic violations. The minimum suspension period would be raised from 60 to 120 days for drivers who commit two serious traffic violations during a three-year period. The minimum suspension period would be raised from 120 to 240 days for drivers who commit three serious violations during the same time period.

Drivers would also be required to provide next day notification to employers and the RMV if they are convicted of violating any state or local traffic law, or if they have their right to operate a vehicle revoked or suspended by any state.

Employers hiring commercial drivers would be required to sign up for the state’s driver verification system. The system is a free service that provides automatic notification to employers when an employee’s CDL status changes.

“This bill will enhance roadway safety by improving the tools the Commonwealth has to ensure that only qualified, responsible, and safe drivers are operating commercial motor vehicles on the roads,” Baker previously stated.

Pollack’s plea

Pollack told committee members the Legislature must act on the issue to permit the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles to move forward with the changes.

The secretary added that she recognizes the majority of CDL holders are not a concern. She said the state wants to address the few in the industry who should not be on the road.

More Land Line coverage of news from Massachusetts is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.