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Vermont bill proposes to raise fines for driving while texting



Republican Rep. Butch Shaw, co-sponsor of the bill, says he supports it because it would create "serious penalties" for people using hand-held devices while driving. (The Trucker file photo)

MONTPELIER, Vt.  — Vermont lawmakers have introduced a bill that would increase fines for texting while driving and other distracted driving offenses.

The Times Argus reports the bill would raise the penalty for first offenders from the current maximum of $200 to $500, and it would add five points to the offender’s driving record.

Juvenile offenders would not be fined, but would receive five points on his or her record. The bill says minors will lose their learner’s permit for 30 days for getting three points and 90 days for getting six points.

Republican Rep. Butch Shaw, co-sponsor of the bill, says he supports it because it would create “serious penalties” for people using hand-held devices while driving.

The bill is currently under review by the House Committee on Transportation.

A bill introduced Tuesday in the Vermont House of Representatives would increase the penalties for texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving, and leave violators on the hook for $500 for a first offense.

Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Pittsford, co-sponsored the bill.

“I continue to see people in the street driving while using their cellphones, or actually texting, so my purpose is to keep the conversation open on this problem, which doesn’t appear to be going away by legislation. We need to figure this out, because we continue to hear from the folks at the Department of Public Safety about car crashes being caused by inattentive driving,” he said.

If the bill becomes law as written, the civil penalty for using a portable electronic device while driving would increase to $500 and five points on the offender’s driving record.

Currently, the penalty for a first violation is a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $200, while the penalties for subsequent violations is a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $500. Points against an offender’s license is not part of the current law unless under specific circumstances.

For instance, an offender would be assigned four points for a first violation and five points for second or greater convictions if the offender is using the handheld device in a marked work zone or school zone.

The bill proposes to add an additional three points under those circumstances, in addition to the standard five-point penalty.

The proposed changes would also have an impact on those who are issued junior driver’s license. Someone younger than 18 who is texting or using a handheld device while driving would not be fined but would receive five points on his or her record.

“A learner’s permit or junior operator’s license shall contain an admonition that it is recallable and that the later procurement of an operator’s license is conditional on the establishment of a record which is satisfactory to the commissioner and showing compliance with the motor-vehicle laws of this and other states,” the bill said.

The bill proposes a minor would lose his or her learner’s permit for 30 days for getting three points and 90 days for getting six points.

Texting while driving has been illegal in Vermont since 2010, after then-Gov. James Douglas signed a bill at Montpelier High School.

During the signing event, students were asked to drive a golf cart through a course lined with traffic cones. The students went through the course once and then drove the course again while texting.

One legislator was asked to try the same exercise because of his background.

Then-Sen. Phil Scott, a Washington County Republican, was asked to participate because of his experience as a professional race car driver.

Scott, now Vermont’s governor, said he did awful while driving the course.

“I don’t see this measure as punitive as much as educational. I believe that once people are aware of how much of a problem this is, they stop,” Scott said in 2010.

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The Nation

Diesel heads up 4 cents a gallon to $3.006



Diesel prices jumped 4 cents a gallon to ring up Tuesday at $3.006. (The Trucker file photo)

For the past several months, including the end of 2018, all the “experts” said oil (and consequently diesel) was going nowhere but up. It had to, they reasoned, after prices had almost literally scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Then oil and diesel both went down for weeks. After that it stayed the same.

Now diesel prices are finally up — 4 cents a gallon — to $3.006 a gallon Tuesday from $2.966 a gallon last week.

Normally, diesel prices would have been announced Monday, but since it was President’s Day, diesel prices were released Tuesday.

And it may be a testament to how long prices had been going down or stayed flat that none of the U.S. Information Administration’s 10 reporting regions were clocking $4-a-gallon diesel, not even California, where diesel was ringing up at $3.739.

Also, four regions were still below $3 a gallon as of Tuesday.

And although 4 cents a gallon for the on-highway national average was a significant jump from the week before, the Lower Atlantic and Midwest regions each jumped 5.5 cents a gallon. Diesel in the Lower Atlantic sector went from $2.872 last week to $2.927 Tuesday while in the Midwest, diesel prices went from $2.849 last week to $2.904 today.

The Gulf Coast had the lowest prices at $2.809 a gallon, up 3.3 cents from the week prior.

Is this the start of an upward trend? It’s hard to know what oil prices will do in a global economy that is teetering since what seems like a bandwagon jump out of the European Union.

Meanwhile, oil was trading up:

U.S. crude added 48 cents to $56.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after gaining $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 16 cents to $66.34 per barrel, The Associated Press reported.

For diesel prices by sector, click here.

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The Nation

Ohio governor to reveal gas tax hike plan Thursday



Ohio's tp Transportation Department executive says the state is facing an "impending crisis" unless more road funding is provided. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state’s gas tax to deal with a chronic shortfall in spending on road construction.

DeWine, a Republican, says there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind.

He wouldn’t provide details or say what the proposed increase will be. He spoke at an annual forum sponsored by The Associated Press.

DeWine says the increase is “just to keep us where we are today.”

The head of the Ohio Department of Transportation director said earlier this month that Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided.

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The Nation

OOIDA Foundation issues information it says debunks driver shortage ‘myth’



Most carriers with high turnover do so by design, says OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions,” he said.

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s research foundation published two new documents it says debunks the driver shortage “myth.”

A fact sheet explains how the industry isn’t afflicted with a shortage of drivers, but is actually plagued with overcapacity and driver retention, the foundation reported.

A second, accompanying document talks about how wages have decreased for truck drivers at large carriers and many have moved toward smaller fleets.

Last year, the association also created a short video that explains why there is high turnover as opposed to a shortage.

“We are concerned about the perpetuation of a myth of driver shortage,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA President. “This misinformation is used to push agendas that are harmful to the industry and highway safety.”

To address the supposed driver “shortage,” some organizations have suggested that the age requirement to obtain a commercial driver’s license should be lowered from 21 to 18.

“If safety is the top priority when considering a change to a regulation, when it comes to age, the number should be raised, not lowered.” Spencer said.

OOIDA also contends that any issue with retention could be mitigated with other solutions that would be safer for all highway users.

For example, compensation has been shown to be tied directly to highway safety, as revealed in studies that suggest there is a strong correlation between driver pay and highway safety, Spencer said.

“Most carriers with high turnover do so by design,” he said. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions. But putting younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck isn’t the solution because it does nothing to address the underlying issues that push drivers out of the industry. It merely exacerbates the churn.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Missouri, area.




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