ATSSA members’ advocacy pays off in Texas
TX-ATSSA chapter leads bill in Texas legislature to protect contractors on roadways
Advancing roadway safety. That was the mission for the ATSSA Texas Chapter’s recent advocacy day at the Texas State Capitol.
That passion and effort is already making a difference in the state, as Texas Representative Mike Lang (R-Texas) has introduced House Bill 1226 – legislation which would include Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) contractors in the state’s “slow down/move over” law.
The existing “slow down/move over” law includes TxDOT workers and requires all motorists to slow their vehicle and move away from the lane where roadway work is being performed, otherwise the motorist can be pulled over and fined by law enforcement. But with more work on Texas roadways being completed by contractors, this left a loophole in the law that negatively impacts roadway contractors’ safety, according to ATSSA Director of State Government Relations Ashley Wieland.
“Slowing down and moving over provides that extra layer of protection for our members out in work zones when they’re on the road, and this bill makes that enforceable,” said Wieland.
It all started with the advocacy day, as dozens of ATSSA members met with more than 20 state representatives, communicating the importance of roadway safety infrastructure and a need to amend the “slow down/move over” law to include contractors. Lang was among the legislators that the members met with and decided to move forward with introducing the legislation.
For David Rabon, an ATSSA Certified Instructor and National Safety Director for the TRP Construction Group, moving this bill forward was very personal, having lost several co-workers over the course of his career in the roadway safety infrastructure industry. Rabon lives in Granbury, Texas, which is a part of Lang’s district.
“It’s extremely important to us to protect our employees. Throughout my 34-year career, I’ve had the unfortunate task of investigating three fatalities involving co-workers. For legislation that is this important to come out of my area [in Texas], it’s awesome. It makes me feel like what we do counts. It makes a difference,” said Rabon.
The event at the Texas State Capitol was the first advocacy effort on the state level Swarco Southwest Regional Manager Frank Coghlan had been involved in.
“We all came together to actually accomplish this. It wasn’t just one or two companies or people, it was several across the entire membership. It was eye opening for me to be able to see what we were able to accomplish…and this bill is at the heart and core of what ATSSA stands for in terms of safety,” said Coghlan.
Shelley Williams, southeast regional sales manager for Pexco, echoed Coghlan’s sentiment.
“Being a part of this effort was an excellent experience for me. To be able to see the bill being introduced by Representative Lang is a great accomplishment for ATSSA’s Texas Chapter and the manufacturers and the contractors who work in Texas work zones. Most importantly, the bill will be one that will help save lives,” said Williams.
Now that the bill has been referred to committee, there will be an opportunity for a hearing where TX-ATSSA members will be able to testify and share their stories and information on why the bill should be enacted. If the bill moves through committee and passes on the floor of the House, it will go to the Senate for consideration. The Senate’s version of the bill will go through the same process and be voted on again before going to the Texas governor for their signature if passed out of the legislature, said Wieland.
“This is a great example of how an ATSSA chapter saw a need, and they came to ATSSA National, and we supported them through this, helping them to go through the steps to make this happen. We started with an advocacy day, we started with an ask, communicating why it’s so important to have these measures in place. It speaks volumes to ATSSA’s state GR program and our membership’s grassroots effort to get this bill introduced,” said Wieland.
For more information on hosting a state advocacy day for your chapter, contact Wieland at firstname.lastname@example.org.