State Capitol Week in Review

Updated: February 9, 2018

From State Senator Jimmy Hickey, Jr.

Sometimes elected officials and law enforcement agencies must conduct public information campaigns to explain how people are affected when a new law is passed.

These days, the opposite is taking place. The Highway Police and legislators are in the rare position of explaining to the public that a new law does not affect them.

In this case, it is farmers and people who haul cattle, horses and other livestock. There have been concerns that they would be affected by new federal regulations geared for commercial truck drivers.

The Highway Police have held meetings with the public and had individual discussions with legislators to assure them that nothing has changed in the enforcement of farm vehicles hauling livestock and rodeo animals.

The new rules require electronic monitors to be installed in commercial trucks, to log the amount of time the driver spends behind the wheel. The purpose is to more strictly enforce rules that limit truck drivers from driving for such long hours that they get drowsy or distracted.

For example, commercial truck drivers are not supposed to drive more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. An electronic log of their travels will replace paper logs.

The popularity of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has fueled the spread of concerns about the potential effect on livestock haulers. The Highway Police and advocates for livestock haulers who studied the details of the new trucking regulations want people to know that the exemptions for hauling horses and cattle are still in place.

For example, if you occasionally load a horse on a trailer to participate in a livestock show or rodeo, nothing has changed, according to the head of the Highway Police.

If you drive fewer than 150 miles, you’re still exempt from requirements that you obtain a commercial driver’s license. If you travel beyond the 150-mile radius, you’re still exempt if you make the trip fewer than eight times within a 30 day period. This exemption applies not only to horse owners on recreational trips, but also to farmers hauling commodities.

In response to concerns from legislators, farmers and cattlemen, Highway Police officials have assured state lawmakers that they have not stepped up enforcement of farm vehicles and livestock trailers.

The new regulations requiring truckers to keep electronic logs of their trips were adopted at the federal level by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and not by legislators at the state Capitol in Little Rock.

If you have any questions call the Highway Police central office at 501-569-2421 and ask for help in determining whether or not you are required to have a commercial driver’s license for the type of vehicle you drive and the type of trips you make.

Concealed Carry Instruction

Last year the legislature passed laws increasing the number of locations where a permit holder could legally carry a concealed firearm, if they take additional training. Certificates were sent to about 70 instructors last week that authorize them to begin the enhanced training.

A couple of instructors who qualified said in interviews with the media that they already had lengthy waiting lists for the enhanced training.