November 19, 2003
SPRINGFIELD (Nov. 19)—In a 58-0 vote, the Illinois Senate today passed an amended version of House Bill 313, the Contract Carrier Safety Act, incorporating revised language submitted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his August 26 amendatory veto.
The Illinois House passed the legislation November 4, also by unanimous vote. The new language will take effect January 1, 2004. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman George Shadid (D-Pekin) spearheaded the effort to get the measure passed in the Senate before closure of the General Assembly’s fall veto session.
“This vote closes the last loophole in the Contract Carrier Safety Act,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, who has made crew van safety one of the principal goals of his work in Springfield.
“The original Contract Carrier Safety Act failed to fully cover vans registered out of state,” Szabo said.
“Our union went back and suggested new language to more fully cover out-of-state vans, but the governor’s staff found that some of the language may have conflicted with the federal government’s exclusive authority under the Constitution to regulate interstate commerce,” he said. “The governor signed the bill with an amendatory veto, meaning he inserted new language that resolved the state/federal conflict. That revised bill is what passed today.”
Szabo said the revised bill allows Illinois to compel vans registered out of state to undergo periodic Illinois safety inspection, provided the law in the state where the vans are domiciled does not have a comparable safety law. If the state of domicile has its own inspection standards, they will prevail as long as they are equal to, or more stringent than Illinois standards.
In addition to covering the mechanical condition of the vans, the Contract Carrier Safety Act also mandates that the drivers must observe Illinois hours-of-service restrictions.
“Ideally, the federal government should be inspecting and certifying these vehicles, just as it inspects interstate motor coaches,” Szabo said. “Unfortunately, federal law does not cover 15-passenger commercial vehicles or taxis, which are used to transport railroad crews. In the absence of federal law, Illinois had to take matters into its own hands.”
Szabo said that the union is grateful for the General Assembly’s quick work in passing the revised bill, but that union members now must become state government’s helpers in enforcing it.
“Everything depends on our members’ willingness to monitor the vehicles they ride in for safety defects and to report promptly any defects they see,” Szabo said. “Whether it be the mechanical condition of a van or a fatigued driver, our members now have the tools to bring violations of the new law to the attention of their union.”
Szabo said members who see vehicles with broken headlights or tail-lights, missing mirrors, bald tires or other evidence of poor maintenance should quickly jot down the name of the vehicle operator, the fleet number of the vehicle, the license number, and the time and location where the violations were noted. The same data should be jotted down regarding poor driver performance.
“The fastest way to get action is on-line,” Szabo said. “Bring up the Illinois Legislative Board’s home page at www.illini.utu.org and scroll down the left margin to ‘Send an Email.’ Then click ‘Safety Complaints,” look for the ‘Crew Van Complaint Form’ and enter the information it requests.”
Szabo said members who are not on-line should get a paper form from their UTU Local Legislative Representative, or draft a short letter, for forwarding to his office in Chicago.
“The system works if our members use it,” Szabo said. “IDOT has been exceptional in responding to those complaints filed by our members. This law gives us the power to secure our own safety in the workplace. Now let’s use it.”