HB 1254

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As Reported by House Committee On:


Title: An act relating to clarifying the authority of unregistered vehicles shipped as marine cargo through public ports to operate on public roadways.

Brief Description: Clarifying the authority of unregistered vehicles shipped as marine cargo through public ports to operate on public roadways.

Sponsors: Representatives Fey, Barkis, Wylie and Tharinger.

Brief History:

Committee Activity:

Transportation: 1/28/19, 1/31/19 [DPS].

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

  • Exempts vehicles that are shipped as marine cargo through public ports from vehicle registration requirements to be operated on public roadways.


Majority Report: The substitute bill be substituted therefor and the substitute bill do pass. Signed by 29 members: Representatives Fey, Chair; Slatter, 2nd Vice Chair; Valdez, 2nd Vice Chair; Wylie, 1st Vice Chair; Barkis, Ranking Minority Member; Walsh, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Young, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Boehnke, Chambers, Dent, Doglio, Dufault, Entenman, Eslick, Goehner, Gregerson, Irwin, Kloba, Lovick, McCaslin, Mead, Orcutt, Paul, Pellicciotti, Ramos, Riccelli, Shea, Shewmake and Van Werven.

Staff: Patricia Hasan (786-7292).


Vehicles, unless specifically exempt, must be registered with the state to be operated on public roadways. It is unlawful for a person to operate any vehicle, unless specifically exempt, on public highways in Washington without a current and proper vehicle registration and without displaying license plates on the vehicle. Vehicle registrations are issued by the Department of Licensing (DOL), county auditors or other agent, or subagents as appointed by the DOL, and are typically valid for one year from the date of purchase. Registrations are indicated with dated license tabs that are placed in a designated area on the license plate.

Some vehicles are not required to be registered in order to be operated on public roadways. The following vehicles are not required to be registered:


Summary of Substitute Bill:

Vehicles shipped as marine cargo are exempt from vehicle registration if:

Substitute Bill Compared to Original Bill:

The substitute bill clarifies the requirements a vehicle shipped as marine cargo must meet in order to be exempt from vehicle registration.


Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date of Substitute Bill: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony:

(In support) The marine cargo industry supports 58,000 jobs in Washington, paying an average salary of $95,000 per year. The industry also generates about a quarter of a billion dollars in state tax revenue every biennium.

Marine cargo includes automobiles from several manufacturers. In December 2018 a new port facility was opened in Tacoma that creates the potential for doubling the cargo capacity and the number of jobs affiliated with handling automobiles. The Port of Tacoma expects to see two to three vessels per week carrying automobiles, and 50 to 60 longshore workers are required for each vessel. This means a lot of family wage jobs in the area.

When a vehicle is unloaded from a ship, it is driven off the ship by an employee and driven to either a parking lot for storage or an automobile processing facility where it becomes ready to be delivered to a car dealership. The parcels of land between the storage and processing facilities are not always linked, and there are occasions where the vehicle may need to be driven on or across a public roadway. Because vehicles do not need to be registered until the end buyer makes a purchase, the port has unregistered vehicles driving on local and state streets. This has been a practice for about 30 years with no concerns. However, during the permitting process for the new facility in Tacoma, the City of Tacoma suggested that this practice be corrected.

For the automakers industry, certainty in the supply chain is important. This bill removes any possibility that vehicles shipped as marine cargo could be required to be registered and increase the cost of moving vehicles from the manufacturing facility to the storage facilities. The bill also reduces the regulatory burden on the Port of Tacoma.

Other states have similar provisions that allow for vehicles shipped as marine cargo to be unregistered. This bill is modeled after legislation from Florida. Additionally, Washington currently allows several types of vehicles to be unregistered, such as farm equipment. Farmers are allowed to drive tractors from one field to the next if the fields are bisected by a public road. Several state and local entities have been contacted regarding this bill and have had no concerns. This is ultimately a technical correction that codifies existing practice.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying: Representative Fey, prime sponsor; Sean Eagan, Northwest Seaport Alliance; Michael Transue, Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and Association of Global Automakers; and Gordon Baxter, International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.