By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editorMultiple bills under review in the Mississippi Legislature cover issues of significance to professional drivers.
One bill is intended to deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment.
The bill from Rep. Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, would establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods.
According to FreightWatch International, in 2015 Mississippi ranked in the top 20 of states in the number of cargo thefts. Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey and Georgia are in the top five.
OOIDA says legislative efforts to deter cargo theft are a step in the right direction to help protect truck drivers and their property.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, has said in most cases of cargo theft that owner-operators would effectively be out of business.
“In the short term, without equipment there is no way to make money and in the long term they might lose business from a freight broker or motor carrier,” Matousek said.
In an effort to discourage thefts in the state, offenders would face prison in addition to monetary penalties. Specifically, thieves who steal cargo from trucks loaded with controlled substances, or pharmaceuticals, valued at less than $10,000 would face fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.
Theft of controlled substances valued up to $1 million could result in as much as 25 years behind bars and/or fines up to $1 million. Loads valued in excess of $1 million could result in prison terms as long as 30 years and/or fines up to $1 million.
Violators of other property heists valued as much as $1,000 would face misdemeanor charges. Theft of cargo valued as high as $10,000 would include fines up to $100,000 and/or 10 years behind bars. Stolen loads valued in excess of $10,000 could result in 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.
Another provision in the bill covers fifth wheels, and any antitheft locking device attached to the fifth wheel. Any attempt to alter, move or sell a fifth wheel could result in 10-year prison terms and/or $100,000 fines.
The bill, HB1263, awaits consideration in the House Judiciary B Committee.
A separate bill in the Senate would prohibit indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.
Sponsored by Sen. Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville, SB2459 would outlaw provisions in contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them “void and unenforceable.”
Matousek says the legislative effort is a reasonable and fair solution that will prevent all parties to a transportation contract from granting themselves blanket immunity.
Mississippi is one of seven states, and the lone state outside the Northeast, yet to adopt protections from the unfair clauses.
Affected contracts in the Magnolia State would be defined as a contract between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of goods by motor carriers, entrance on property to load, unload, or transport goods.
Other bills of interest at the statehouse include the following:
To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here.
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