Controversial regulations in Florida are now allowing trucks to be able to run 8,000 pounds heavier on non-interstate highways. Despite opposition from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the new regulations say tractor-trailers may weigh up to 88,000 pounds on designated routes while fleet loads on interstate highways would continue to be restricted to 80,000 lbs. Several major trucking lobbyists claimed that the trucking industry needed this weight expansion in order to cut high fuel costs and create stability in a tough economy.
The new fleet legislation, signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist, began taking effect in July 2010. Many opponents to the new laws say claim that the legislation, attached to general transportation bills House Bill 1271 and Senate Bill 2362, were moved through the legislative process with no outreach to the local communities in which these heavier fleets would travel. Previous regulations stated that the trucks be must be 4 tons lighter in order to travel safely on Florida roads and highways.
Among the concerns cited by OOIDA are premature highway deterioration, increased maintenance costs, and truck driver safety concerns. Opponents claimed that allowing more weight is dangerous and damaging to local roads. Heavier trucks are harder to stop and accelerate which can cause more accidents. According to their estimates, heavier trucks could cost local and state governments more than $150 million per year to offset additional highway maintenance.
On the other hand, many commercial truckers want the ability to haul heavier loads over county and local roads. Allowing increased weight limits has benefits that are both practical and economical. If fleet vehicles can carry more weight, then there will be fewer trucks on the road. When fleet vehicles are allowed to carry more cargo, they send out fewer trucks and spend less on gas. These are critical issues for fleet management and trucking companies trying to survive the current economic recession.
State analysis suggested that adopting the weight exemption created greater consistency between federal and state law. The change is important to trucks and “would assist regulatory officials by preventing enforcement ambiguities that could cause problems for drivers during inspections.”
Another provision included in the bill, HB 1271, gives truckers a 400-pound weight exception for auxiliary power units. The maximum gross vehicle axle weight limits will be increased for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. Trucks equipped with APUs would be allowed to weigh up an extra 400 lbs.