GLEN BURNIE, Md. – The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) is highlighting several new bills taking effect October 1 that address the commercial trucking industry, traffic safety and driver penalties.
Introduced by MDOT MVA leadership, passed by the Maryland General Assembly and signed into law earlier this year by Governor Larry Hogan, Senate Bill 291 accommodates truck platooning – a practice that utilizes vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology hosted by radar, GPS and Wi-Fi to allow two or more vehicles to be electronically synced with one another.
The technology used to control truck platoons communicates information wirelessly on braking, speed and oncoming obstacles from the lead truck – allowing following trucks to have consistent and predictable driving behavior. These systems drastically reduce reaction time of following trucks in the platoon, which in turn reduces the likelihood of rear-end or chain-reaction crashes.
The new law exempts trucks traveling in a unified manner at electronically connected speeds – such as a platoon – from the requirement to leave room for a vehicle to enter the space between them. Lifting the prohibition on “following too closely” for these types of electronically connected trucks removes a barrier to the commercial deployment of driver-assisted truck platoons on Maryland roadways.
“SB 291 allows Maryland to explore driver-assisted truck platooning which could lead to improvements in the areas of safety, environment, commerce, and infrastructure,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer. “The pandemic highlighted the importance of trucking and freight delivery, making it even more important to provide every available tool to our trucking companies.”
Companies interested in pursuing truck platooning must submit an application and an operational plan, which will be reviewed for approval by a team of multi-disciplinary experts. The review will include route and safety considerations, as well as notice requirements to emergency responders and the public.
Another bill related to the commercial trucking industry is House Bill 250, which eases inspections for commercial motor vehicles. Under the bill, owners of Class F (tractor) vehicles that have been in operation for five years or less must have the vehicles inspected, maintained and repaired at 35,000 miles, instead of the previous requirement of 25,000 miles. It also requires owners of certain Class E vehicles in operation for five years or less to have the vehicle inspected, maintained and repaired at 50,000 miles, rather than the previous 25,0000 miles, if the vehicles are zero-emission electric vehicles or fuel cell electric vehicles.
Traffic safety bills taking effect include House Bill 118/Senate Bill 293, which stipulates certain penalties – including a fine, motor vehicle safety course, community service and driver’s license suspension – for people who cause serious injury or death to lawful pedestrians, certain roadway and utility workers, emergency services personnel, individuals walking an animal or individuals operating a motorcycle, bike, scooter, farm equipment, a wheelchair, an Electronic Personal Assistive Mobility Device or an animal-drawn vehicle.
Other bills going into effect on October 1 that are related to motor vehicle operations and the MDOT MVA include:
• HB 519: Vehicle Equipment – Safety Glass – Replacement Standards requires MDOT MVA to establish standards and requirements for aftermarket safety glass replacement.
• HB 0115/SB 0020: Vehicle Laws – Canceled, Revoked and Suspended Driver’s Licenses – Penalties alters certain penalties for a person who displays a canceled, revoked or suspended driver’s license, and requires that a person who violates certain sections of the law must appear in court and may not prepay the fine.
• SB 0681: Motor Vehicles – Inspection Certificates – Exception allows transfer of a used vehicle from a business to a majority owner of the business without the need to obtain a motor vehicle safety inspection certificate, if the vehicle is primarily driven by the majority owner and the business has been dissolved or is in the process of dissolution.
• HB 1074/SB 0140: Vehicle Laws – Commercial Motor Carriers – Safety, Inspection, Performance and Insurance Information, also known as James Cohran’s Law, requires employers of commercial motor vehicle drivers to provide certain information to a prospective employee driver. This law ensures prospective employees receive information on an employer’s safety record and crash data, and holds companies accountable by imposing civil penalties if they do not comply.