Tag Archives: trucks

Truck rules eased with gas pipeline shutdown

ATLANTA (AP) – The governors of three Southern states are lifting restrictions on the number of hours that truck drivers delivering fuel can work, hoping to prevent shortages in both states after the shutdown of a pipeline that spilled at least 252,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Alabama.

Governors can suspend federal transportation regulations during emergencies. (Note: Gov. Bill Haslam’s news release on his executive order is HERE.)

Colonial Pipeline has said most of the leaked gasoline is contained in a retention pond near the city of Helena and there’s no public safety concern. The spill was first detected on Sept. 9, but it’s not clear when it began.

The company increased its estimate of the spill’s size on Friday, saying it was between 252,000 and 336,000 gallons. Colonial doesn’t expect to fully reopen the pipeline until next week. The pipeline runs from Texas to New Jersey, supplying fuel to states in the Southeast and on the East Coast.

Colonial said that supply disruptions would be felt first in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
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AG opines that proposed new truck taxes violate U.S. Constitution

Attorney General Herbert Slatery has opined that proposed legislation to impose new fees on trucks traveling Tennessee highways is unconstitutional because the levies would effectively mean higher taxes on trucks owned by out-of-state companies.

SB354, introduced by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Cumberland, is entitled the “Public Highway Maintenance Act of 2015. It would impose a new 13-cents-per-gallon “surcharge” on diesel fuel and a “highway maintenance fee” of 2.85 cents per mile traveled within the state for each commercial motor vehicle weighing 60,000 pounds or more.

But Tennessee-based trucking companies would get a credit for payment of the new levies on their state franchise and excise taxes – in many cases, likely enough to reduce the business taxes enough to offset most, if not all, of the new taxes.

In an opinion requested by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, Slatery says that arrangement violates both the commerce clause and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state companies.

“On its face, SB 354 mandates differential treatment of motor carriers domiciled in Tennessee and those domiciled elsewhere. The proposed act gives motor carriers domiciled in this state a credit against their franchise and excise taxes for the additional surcharges and maintenance fees imposed by the act,” says the opinion.

“This credit is not extended to motor carriers domiciled in other states, although they also are subject to this state’s franchise and excise taxes if they operate in Tennessee. As drafted, therefore, the credit provision of SB 354 violates the dormant Commerce Clause,” it says.

Further, the opinion says, “The credit provisions of SB 354 likewise violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” It quotes a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that a “state may not constitutionally favor its own residents by taxing foreign corporations at a higher rate solely because of their residence.”

The full opinion is HERE

Citing weather, Haslam suspends rules for trucks carrying food, fuel, hay and chicken feed

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued three executive orders late Wednesday easing rules that regulate trucks carrying food, fuels, hay and chicken feed during the state’s winter storm situation.

The three executive orders come with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency having declared earlier that a state of emergency exists in Tennessee because of ice, snow and severe cold weather.

Road conditions have delayed deliveries in some cases and the executive orders suspend hours that commercial vehicles may drive if carrying designated products. For hay, the usual size limitations on truck loads are also suspended. The executive order notes Tennessee is a major producer of hay.

The rules are federal, but include provisions allowing a state governor to suspend them in some situations.

Note: Executive Order No. 43 deals with food and fuels, link HERE; No. 44 deals with hay, link HERE; and No. 45 with chickens and chicken feed, link HERE.

Road-building revenue proposal: New tax on out-of-state-truckers

Freshman Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, who runs a trucking company, has proposed a way to have out-of-state trucking companies pay more taxes for their travels in Tennessee, boosting state revenue for the faltering road construction fund, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, cited the truck weight fee proposal last week as he told reporters he is seeking a “very comprehensive” approach to generating more revenue for transportation.

…Bailey said in an interview that “when I first heard talk of a fuel tax increase, I took out figures from our company, and compared what we were paying in Tennessee versus other states.”

He said he “noticed that not only was our state significantly lower, but that surrounding states had levies on weight/distance and fuel surcharges that we don’t collect in Tennessee. So in effect, Tennessee trucking companies are paying extra fees in other states that out-of-state firms are not paying here.”

Tennessee motor carriers “pay a tremendous amount of fuel taxes already,” Bailey said, noting his own medium-sized firm pays about $300,000 per year.

“So, what this plan does is provide for the capture of a revenue stream from out-of-state trucking companies that enjoy our good highway infrastructure without adding a tax burden on the citizens of Tennessee,” Bailey said.

Kentucky, New Mexico, New York and Oregon already have weight/distance fees, Bailey said. All truckers pay the fees, the senator noted, but home-based firms are able to deduct the fees from business taxes, leaving out-of-state truckers carrying the load.

Bailey said his proposal would do the same in the Volunteer State. Tennessee-based firms would be able to deduct the weight/distance fees from their state franchise and excise taxes under his plan, Bailey said.

“It will also provide additional revenue for city and county road departments,” Bailey said.

Using rates identical to Kentucky’s, Bailey estimates the weight/distance fee could raise $103.6 million. Tennessee-based companies could deduct about $25.34 million, leaving the state with a net gain of $78.2 million.

Meanwhile, three other states — Kentucky, Virginia and Indiana — utilize fuel charges impacting truckers. Again, in-state firms can deduct those from their business taxes in those states.

Implementing a 5-to-13-cent per gallon surcharge would net Tennessee an additional $23.76 million to $61.79 million annually with Tennessee-based firms’ deductions taken into account, according to Bailey’s estimates.

He estimated that about 60 percent of the nation’s trucking traffic comes through Tennessee, which has the 400-mile-long Interstate 40, a major national east-west corridor, and Interstate 75, a major north-south artery in the eastern U.S. that runs through Chattanooga and Knoxville.

Governor authorizes longer hours for truckers hauling propane in ‘state of emergency’

News release from governor’s office:
Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued Executive Order #35 today declaring a State of Emergency in Tennessee to exempt the federal Hours of Service requirements in the state for the transporting of propane during the next period of cold weather.

“This has been a hard winter already for many home and business owners in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “This executive order will help families, farmers and businesses get the necessary energy resources to stay warm, stay open and keep operating.”

Current federal law limits drivers transporting hazardous materials, such as propane, to driving 70 hours a week in stretches of no more than 11 hours a day. The drivers must have at least 10 continuous hours off between driving shifts.

The emergency declaration will allow drivers to work longer hours to transport propane to homes and business in Tennessee, and to other hard-hit areas of the United States.

The Tennessee departments of Agriculture, Environment and Conservation, Safety, Transportation, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency are coordinating with each other, with other states and with federal authorities to put the exemption in place.

The current weather forecast for Tennessee says the second arctic cold front of 2014 is coming to Tennessee Tuesday, bringing a prolonged period of subfreezing temperatures, which may remain in place through Saturday. The National Weather Service expects low temperatures in the single digits and teens, with highs only reaching the 20s or 30s. Light snow is predicted in the lower elevations of Tennessee with heavier amounts and accumulations on the plateau and the mountains.

An arctic cold front moved into Tennessee on Jan. 3 this year, bringing the coldest air to the state in more than 20 years and causing Tennessee’s first State of Emergency in 2014. Temperatures struggled to reach single digits for highs and wind chills were -15 degrees in many parts of the state.
Note: The executive order is available by clicking this link:

‘This State Government Function Brought to You By….’

Persons calling the state’s “511” system to check traffic conditions could soon be hearing a commercial before they get information under a bill approved by House and Senate committees.
The bill, HB223, won unanimous approval of the House and Senate Transportation Committees and is now before the Finance Committee of both bodies.. Legislative staff estimates enactment of the bill would produce $400,000 per year in new revenue from the commercials – less an estimated $50,000 to a private contractor handling the advertising.
Another bill, HB224, authorizes the Department of Transportation to put ads on its 72 “HELP trucks,” which provide assistance to motorists. It, too, has won unanimous approval of the transportation committees and awaits finance committee actions.
The HELP truck ads are projected to produce $324,000 per year in revenue, again less $50,000 to a private contractor dealing with advertisers.
Both bills are sponsored by House Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.
Under amendments, the ads cannot be for alcoholic beverages, “adult-oriented establishments,” political candidates and political causes or anything illegal.