Friday, February 10, 2012

Transportation Committee Advances Chassis Bill

The Washington House Transportation Committee this week voted to advance a bill that would change who bears responsibility for damaged chassis and cargo containers that move through the state’s ports.

On Feb. 7, the committee voted 22-6 to forward House Bill 2527, which would make shipping companies responsible for any defects in chassis and containers, rather than truckers, who currently have responsibility.

The proposed legislation, which is sponsored Rep. Deb Eddy, D-Kirkland, would add a new section to the state code stating that when a law enforcement official finds a violation on an intermodal chassis, “any infraction, fine, or penalty assessed on the intermodal container chassis must be assessed against the intermodal equipment provider.”

The proposed legislation, which was introduced Jan. 17, would also allow the chassis to be “placed out of service by law enforcement until the violation is corrected.”

The bill would also require the Port of Seattle to create areas where truckers could examine their loads and complete a pre-trip vehicle inspection report.

HB 2527 also mandates that haulers declining to carry a load due to safety reasons must still be paid the haul rate the driver would have received for transporting the load, and that the driver cannot be retaliated against for refusing a load on safety grounds.

Some truck drivers and supporters say the legislation is needed to protect drivers, who have little rights and independent contractors and must carry an inordinate amount of the burden in event of an accident or other event that causes damage to a cargo container or its contents.

Since last week, hundreds of drayage truckers throughout the state have been participating in a work slowdown as a means of support for HB 2527 and another piece of proposed legislation under consideration, House Bill 2395, which would reclassify drayage truckers as employees, instead of the current independent contractor designation.

HB 2527, now that it has received the transportation committee’s approval, moves on to the House floor for consideration. If approved again, it would advance to the state Senate for consideration. If ultimately approved into law as currently written, the change would go into effect July 1.