Update from Representative Sommers
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
September 9, 2014
On Monday September 8th, I attended the Joint Transportation Committee meeting in Riverton. I am not a member of this legislative committee, but I was there to present a bill regarding Class A and B driversí licenses in Wyoming. Wyoming has two parallel license structures, which includes a commercial and non-commercial driverís license system. Both the commercial and non-commercial systems have Class A and B licenses in them. A Class A license is for vehicle combinations which exceed a 26,001 lb. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), when pulling a trailer that exceeds a 10,000 lb. GVWR. A Class B license is for vehicle combinations which exceed a 26,001 lb. GVWR, when pulling a trailer less than a 10,000 lb. GVWR. The federal government regulates this size of vehicle by requiring states to issue commercial driverís licenses, but they also allow states to exempt four classes of vehicles. These include agricultural vehicles within 150 miles of the farm/ranch, when driven by the farmer, family member, or employee; recreational vehicles, like fifth wheels; emergency vehicles, like fire trucks; and military vehicles.
Wyoming created a Class A, B, and C system back in the early 1970s, though with different weight restrictions than today. In 1989, Wyoming implemented the federal Commercial Driverís License Law, which was created in 1986, according to information presented by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT). In 1989, Wyoming established the 26,001 lb. weight limit on both its newly created Class A and B Commercial Driverís License and on its non-commercial Class A and B license. The creation of this dual system has caused both concern and confusion. As I mentioned earlier the feds allow states to exempt certain classes of vehicles from the commercial license system. Wyoming took advantage of that option, and created exemptions for Ag, recreation, firefighting, and the military. However, Wyoming did not exempt these same classes of vehicles from their non-commercial Class A and B licenses. In 1989 that did not matter, because the vehicles which exceeded the 26,001 lb. limit were mostly tractor-trailer combinations, semis, and they had already been under a different licensing system from pickup truck drivers.
Fast forward to 2014, today we have one ton pickups that have a GVWR of 14,000 lbs. and horse trailers and fifth wheel campers exceeding 14,000-16,000 lb. GVWR. Combined these pickup and trailer combinations easily exceed the weight limit needed for a Class A license. So classes of vehicles that were never intended to fall into these heavy truck categories are now, and drivers are being cited for this offense, but only as a secondary offense.
When I looked into this issue, I found out that all of our adjacent states have exemptions for Ag, recreation, emergency, and the military in their commercial driverís license laws, and none of these states have a dual non-commercial Class A and B driverís license system. Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and even Colorado do not require what Wyoming requires, and the feds allow these exemptions for Class A and B licenses as well.
I presented this information to the Joint Transportation Committee today, and brought them a bill which would allow Wyoming drivers to have the same exemptions as our neighbors. I had the support of Farm Bureau and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. The committee took up the issue and the bill, and will be drafting a version to address some safety concerns expressed by committee members. WYDOT has some concerns about safety if we change our system, but admitted that our neighboring states did not seem to have any big problems. If the committee passes a bill to fix this problem, it has a much higher chance of making it into law than if I bring an individual bill to next winterís session. With some luck and good debate, I hope to make the rancher pulling that big trailer load of hay home with his pickup and the camper towing his big fifth wheel to the lake legal on our base Class C license. Wyoming, with our small population, should not be more restrictive than federal law and our neighboring states. This issue was brought to me by Sublette County citizens. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns: email@example.com