State bill passes, provides city of Katy ability to regulate commercial vehicles

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Since 2010, the city of Katy has experienced over 300 commercial motor vehicle crashes, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. Four of those crashes involved a fatality.

The city has also sent out projects for bid to repair roads that have been damaged by these crashes and overweight trucks, Mayor Chuck Brawner said.

To improve the safety of city streets, Brawner and City Council Member Chris Harris asked state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and state Rep. Gina Calanni, D-Katy, respectively, to file companion bills this legislative session to allow a Katy police officer to receive training and be able to regulate CMVs to ensure they are following federal and state laws.

Senate Bill 636 passed March 26 in the Senate and May 9 in the House of Representatives. It awaits the governor’s signature to become law on Sept. 1.

“It is legislation that is targeted at illegal vehicles that are passing through the city of Katy,” Harris said. “It’s a safety bill, and it will help reduce congestion and heavy trucks inside the city of Katy.”

There are about 30 companies—such as distribution, concrete and manufacturing—within the city of Katy that involve CMVs, including 18-wheelers, concrete trucks and tandem axle dump trucks, according to a Community Impact Newspaper analysis.

“We’ve got trucks running up and down numerous streets from Highway Boulevard, Avenue D to Peterson Road,” Brawner said, adding Morton Road and Katyland Drive to the list.

A vehicle count study was conducted March 14 at four intersections: Pin Oak Road at Kingsland Boulevard, Avenue D at Franz Road, Katyland Drive at Fifth Street and Cane Island Parkway at Commerce Parkway, according to city data. Of the approximately 70,000 vehicles that passed between 6 a.m.-7 p.m., about 2,000 were CMVs, or about 2.8%.

Brawner said the focus of the Katy CMV enforcement officer will be to monitor CMVs on city streets, not I-10, which is watched by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

If SB 636 becomes law—a campaign topic discussed during 2018 council elections, Harris said, and a priority in the strategic plan for the city, Brawner said—the city of Katy plans to send one officer to a free CMV enforcement officer training, Brawner said. The city has also budgeted to purchase six mobile scales at $5,000 each.

“In a 30-mile radius of the city of Katy, there’s 3 million people, and it’s growing and growing and growing,” Brawner said at the March 13 House Transportation Committee meeting. “We need to get these vehicles under control, and we need to be able to make sure that our citizens of the whole Greater Katy area are safe.”

Monitoring trucks

DPS is the only law enforcement agency in the city of Katy that is authorized to enforce federal and state CMV regulations under existing law, Brawner said.

“There’s no one on the west side of the Houston area other than a DPS trooper from time to time being able to stop these trucks,” Brawner said at the House Transportation Committee meeting. “So we want to do our part to do that.”

Any law enforcement officer can issue speeding tickets to a CMV or respond to a crash involving a CMV, but only a certified CMV enforcement officer can pull over these vehicles to conduct a North American Roadside Inspection—which involves inspecting CMVs’ weight, brakes, lights and permits—and to enforce motor carrier safety regulations, DPS Sgt. Kevin Tucker said.

Tucker said he and his eight troopers oversee Fort Bend, Waller, Colorado and Austin counties. His team completes about five to seven CMV inspections a day with mobile scales, he said, adding he welcomes the extra help from Katy.

There are two main reasons for ensuring CMVs follow state and federal statutes, Tucker said. First, overweight trucks tear up roads, and the repair process is expensive. The second reason is overweight trucks place too much stress on struts and brakes, which makes it hard for the driver to quickly adjust by braking or turning, which can cause safety issues.

However, Tucker stressed these regulation efforts are focused on safety, not fines.

“We work in conjunction with [the trucking]industry,” Tucker said, adding CMV enforcement officers will give presentations to companies to help them comply with laws. “The goal is to ensure safety.”

Brawner and Harris also said the goal with adding a CMV enforcement officer for the city of Katy is also for safety, not revenue.

“Katy is very blessed in the income that we have coming in from the commercial developments and everything else,” Brawner said at the House Transportation Committee meeting. “This is not a revenue source for us. This is [about]personal safety for our citizens.”

Noting this, the Texas Trucking Association supports Katy’s request for a CMV enforcement officer, said Dana Moore, the trade organization’s director of policy and government relations, at House and Senate Transportation Committee meetings March 13 and 20, respectively.

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Jen Para
Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Jen has written about business, politics and education since 2013. Prior to CI, Jen was the web producer at Houston Business Journal.
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