In an effort to reduce the number of Ohio truck accidents, in 2008 the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) enacted new, more stringent laws in regards to the state’s truck drivers, requiring that vehicles of 10,000 or more pounds meet strict standards. In a drastic drop from the previous weight limit of 26,000 pounds, drivers of smaller vehicles are now required to fulfill requirements such as additional driver documentation, certification and physicals, and get additional vehicle inspections. Small truck owners have struggled to comply with the new laws, and argue that the requirements are unnecessary and expensive for small business owners.
According to PUCO spokeswoman Shana Eiselstein, the regulations were augmented to maintain federal funding. Before the 2008 changes, Ohio’s hazardous materials and private carriers laws were inconsistent with standards put in place by the federal government. As a result, if the state had not made the changes, it faced the possibility of losing $7 million each year in federal funding, which pays for over 100 vehicle safety inspectors.
Eiselstein says that, despite the financial motivation, the goal of the regulations is safety and the prevention of motor vehicle accidents. However, the PUCO wants to ensure that truck owners are not broadsided by the new regulations. Currently, officials are contemplating delaying enforcement of the laws, which was supposed to begin in January, for up to one year. “We are working to address the concerns the parties have regarding the issue,” Eiselstein said. “We are doing what we can to make sure the parties that are affected by these rules are going to have time to understand them.”
According to Ohio Representative Cheryl Grossman, the regulations are a burden on Ohio’s small truck owners, and should be changed accordingly. “We want to make sure vehicles are safe traveling Ohio’s roadways,” she said, “but putting unnecessary regulatory burdens on Ohio’s drivers at a time when they can least afford it is irresponsible.”
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, “Owner says big-rig rules don’t fit his small trucks”, Jim Siegel, 9 November 2010