JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House voted down a proposal Thursday that supporters said would have enabled more companies to offer truck weigh station bypass services, despite criticism that state officials sitting on one company’s private board made it hard for new companies to enter the market.
The House voted 60-82 against the bill that would’ve changed the rules for operating sensors installed under roadways that allow truckers to drive past weigh stations without having to stop. The sensor interacts with a responder in the truck to send the weigh station information such as the truck’s weight and the driver’s information.
HELP Inc. was for many years the only operator of such systems in Missouri, and officials from the Department of Transportation and Missouri Highway Patrol currently sit on the nonprofit’s board.
Bill sponsor Rep. T.J. Berry said Thursday that he had been approached by the FBI over an investigation about potential conflicts of interest between HELP Inc. and the state. Berry said the state officials’ interests in the company could’ve created a barrier to entry for other companies to enter the market.
“When you unpack this, you have the regulators – the Missouri Highway Patrol, (the Missouri Department of Transportation) – sitting on the board of the regulated,” Berry said. “How hard would it be, then, to get a fair hearing for a new technology?”
Berry’s proposal would’ve prohibited state workers from the transportation department or highway patrol from sitting on the boards.
But Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer said having state officials on HELP’s board helped ensure that the company wasn’t abusing state taxpayer dollars. HELP Inc. entered Missouri as part of a public-private partnership.
“Who is going to look after the private money?” he said. “You have somebody from the state, yes they’re regulators, but they’re serving on that board. Do I have a problem with that? No, I don’t.”
Kolkmeyer also pointed out that one of the companies looking to expand to Missouri, Drivewyze, had already been given a contract.
Eight Drivewyze bypass sites are operating in the state, and more are under construction, according to the company’s website.