Starting July 1, Kansas is granting a yearlong exemption to small commercial trucks from most of the safety regulations it imposes upon larger haulers, despite the misgivings of some officials.
The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the exemption is the result of a new law approved by the Legislature this year with large, bipartisan majorities at the urging of owners of landscaping, masonry and home-building businesses and trade groups. They argued that smaller trucks shouldn’t face the same regulations as over-the-road semis.
“It’s all about trying to help small business out,” said Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Coldwater Republican, who backed the bill. “Trying to help them be able to get the job done without someone looking over their shoulder all the time.”
The exemption will apply to trucks if their manufacturers specify that their weights when loaded are 26,000 pounds or less. Operators will avoid limits on hours they can be driven, a requirement for semi-annual medical exams for drivers and requirements for tires, safety hitches, trailer braking systems or emergency equipment. They still will face annual inspections and rules for tying down loads.
The state already has exemptions covering trucks used in local hauling and farm vehicles carrying products to market.
The Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates trucking companies, will take public comments about the change over the next year, and legislators will have a chance to consider extending the exemption after convening their 2015 session in January.
Both the KCC and the Kansas Highway Patrol opposed the change, as did the Kansas Motor Carriers Association, which represents companies operating semis.
“There’s going to be a terrible crash,” said Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who opposed the new law. “There’s going to be someone hurt or killed and all of a sudden we’re going to go, `Why did we ever get rid of these regulations?”‘
But backers of the bill contend the concerns about safety are misplaced. Hoffman said vehicle insurance rates give the operators an incentive to keep their trucks safe.