California Assembly Kills Black Box Bill

The California Assembly’s Transportation Committee voted July 9 to kill a bill that would have required onboard recorders on the state’s truck fleet.

Senate Bill 1048, authored by Sen. Jackie Speier, started out as a measure to establish a Department of Motor Vehicles database of truck drivers who had tested positive or refused to take a test for drugs or alcohol. Such drivers are medically unqualified to drive a truck under federal rules. The database would allow employers to know which job applicants were medically qualified to drive, according to the California Trucking Association, which supported the early version of the bill.

But after a number of rewrites, the bill ended up including a requirement that all trucks registered in the state have electronic onboard recorders for verifying hours-of-service rules. Passed by the state senate May 30, the bill also changed drug-testing rules and tightened CDL medical examination and other requirements.

The medical exam part of the bill was in response to an incident in January when trucker Mike Bowers killed himself by ramming his rig into the state capitol. The crash and resulting fire did about $16 million in damage to the building.

Bowers, who had a history of mental illness and criminal convictions, received his CDL physical from a chiropractor, according to a California Highway Patrol report following the accident. Speier’s bill would have allowed CDL physicals only by health-care professionals “who are clinically competent to perform the medical examination.”