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Steve Lombardi, Attorney

A few days ago I published a post and a news item about a runaway trailer in Dubuque County, Iowa. In that crash a trailer came loose from the truck towing it, crossed over and killed a man driving another car. That other driver was from Ames, Iowa. In the post I referenced a website that focuses on promoting safe trailer laws. Well yesterday Ron Melancon, the President of http://www.dangeroustrailers.org/ telephoned from Glenn Allen, Virginia and we spent a few minutes discussing what he's been up to. He's had success in Virginia and is working on Wisconsin to pass a law simply adding common sense requirements to state law.  In Virginia the legislation is numbered Senate Bill 646. The changes add straightforward requirements for drivers towing a trailer. On July 6, 2010 Ron's efforts were covered in USA Today. The reporter, Larry Copeland, cites federal highway data showing on average more than one person a day dies from crashes with unsafe trailers. It's a helpful article covering the legislative efforts in Wisconsin, Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Here is my post about the Dubuque County accident. Iowan killed by run-a-way trailer in Dubuque County

SB 646 is titled Tow Trucks: certain requirements for connection between vehicles passed. What this law will do is make owners and drivers who tow trailers responsible to know more about the compatibility of their trucks and trailers along with the connections between the two. Those requirements, if followed, will provide for safer trailers. Every since I've become aware of the number of accidents with people getting killed on the highways in Iowa I watch closely when a truck or SUV towing a trailer is coming from the opposite direction. I've always been cautious when towing my own trailer, but seem to focus more on double checking the hitch and chains before starting off.

Here is a summary of the law as it came out of the Senate on March 8, 2010.

Summary as introduced: Connection between vehicles; tow trucks.  Provides that, when one vehicle is towing another, the fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or similar device must (i) be structurally adequate for the weight being drawn, (ii) be properly and securely mounted, (iii) provide for adequate articulation at the connection without excessive slack, and (iv) be provided with a locking device that prevents accidental separation of the vehicles.

The full text of the law as amended is below or you can follow this link. This is a pretty straightforward law that would allow some teeth in the law to do something about people towing unsafe trailers on our state and federal highways. Ron's been working tirelessly to persuade state legislatures to adopt his ideas and to pass safe trailer laws. Iowa would do well to follow Ron Melancon's lead and pass a similar law.


 

VIRGINIA ACTS OF ASSEMBLY -- CHAPTER

An Act to amend and reenact § 46.2-1118 of the Code of Virginia, relating to tow trucks towing vehicles by means of a wheel lift apparatus.

[S 646]

Approved

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That § 46.2-1118 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 46.2-1118. Connection between vehicles; tow trucks towing vehicles by means of a wheel lift apparatus.

The connection between any two vehicles, one of which is towing or drawing the other on a highway, shall consist of a fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or other similar device not to exceed 15 feet in length from one vehicle to the other. Any such two vehicles shall, in addition to such drawbar or other similar device, be equipped at all times when so operated on the highway with an emergency chain or cable that is structurally adequate to securely stop and hold the trailer being towed.

The fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or similar device must (i) be structurally adequate for the weight being drawn, (ii) be properly and securely mounted, (iii) provide for adequate articulation at the connection without excessive slack at that location, and (iv) be provided with a locking device that prevents accidental separation of the towed and towing vehicles. The mounting of the fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or similar device on the towing vehicle must include reinforcement or bracing of the frame sufficient to produce strength and rigidity of the frame to prevent its undue distortion.

The foregoing provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) any farm tractor, as defined in § 46.2-100, when such farm tractor is towing any farm implement or farm machinery by means of a drawbar coupled with a safety hitch pin or manufacturer's coupling device or (ii) any tow truck towing a vehicle by means of a wheel lift apparatus that employs a safety strap to hold two of the towed vehicle's wheels within a wheel lift cradle in a manner consistent with instructions of the manufacturer of such wheel lift apparatus.

For the purposes of this section, "tow truck" means any motor vehicle that is constructed and used primarily for towing, lifting, or otherwise moving illegally parked or disabled vehicles.


Legislative Information System

01/19/10  Senate: Presented and ordered printed 10103499D  pdf
03/08/10  Senate: Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB646ER)  pdf

Status:
01/19/10  Senate: Presented and ordered printed 10103499D
01/19/10  Senate: Referred to Committee on Transportation
01/28/10  Senate: Reported from Transportation (15-Y 0-N)
02/01/10  Senate: Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N)
02/02/10  Senate: Read second time and engrossed
02/03/10  Senate: Read third time and passed Senate (40-Y 0-N)
02/08/10  House: Placed on Calendar
02/08/10  House: Read first time
02/08/10  House: Referred to Committee on Transportation
02/16/10  House: Assigned Transportation sub: #3
02/23/10  House: Subcommittee recommends reporting (6-Y 0-N)
02/25/10  House: Reported from Transportation (21-Y 0-N)
02/26/10  House: Read second time
03/01/10  House: Passed by temporarily
03/01/10  House: Read third time
03/01/10  House: Passed House BLOCK VOTE (99-Y 0-N)
03/01/10  House: VOTE: BLOCK VOTE PASSAGE (99-Y 0-N)
03/08/10  Senate: Enrolled
03/08/10  Senate: Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB646ER)
03/08/10  Senate: Signed by President
03/08/10  House: Signed by Speaker

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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