FHWA officials say APU weight exemption not mandatory

| 5/19/2006

Despite the fact that it was signed into law in August 2005, a provision that added a 400-pound weight exemption for installing APUs on trucks might not be worth the paper on which it’s printed.

The exemption, which was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, went into effect when it was signed by President Bush on Aug. 8, 2005. The program modifies the U.S. Code by increasing a vehicle’s maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit by 400 pounds, which is designated for the adding of a qualified idle-reduction technology, such as an auxiliary power unit.

However, a memo from the Federal Highway Administration’s Size and Weight Division indicates that the exemption is not a mandate, and that it is each state’s prerogative to decide if it will honor it.

“We determined that (the exemption) does not pre-empt state regulations or compel the states to grant the increased weight tolerance,” the memo said. “Rather, (the exemption) simply increases the federal interstate maximum weight limits to compensate for the weight of the APUs installed.”

Land Line has received a handful of reports from truckers across the country of enforcement officials not acknowledging the higher weight limit.

In their memo, FHWA officials asked division employees to notify them of states that weren’t honoring the weight limit increase.

“If many states do not allow the tolerance, it is possible that the EPA or proponents of these devices may ask Congress to amend (the language) to broaden the current funding sanction to include failure to allow the up to 400-pound tolerance for on-board APUs or even preempt non-conforming state weight regulation,” the memo said.

While there is indication that some states are not following the measure, the state of Oregon has gone public with its support, and other states are considering a similar model. Oregon DOT’s Motor Carrier Division has agreed to allow the additional weight, even before the legislature has considered adding the language to the state’s own law books.

“Many truck drivers prefer to carry their own anti-idling device because they park in varied locations and their routes often change,” ODOT officials said in a press release. “They can’t always take advantage of ‘truck stop electrification’ areas where they can plug in to a stand-alone heating, air conditioning, and power system or the more sophisticated shore power systems available for specially modified trucks.”

Supporters within the trucking industry said that without nationwide support, the higher weight limit is useless to truckers who do interstate business.

“It’s unworkable,” said Mike Joyce, senior government affairs representative for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“Our members, and truckers who are interested in this issue, should pick up the phone and call their members of Congress, and they should make them aware that the Federal Highway Administration is interpreting this provision to be a state prerogative, and it’s unworkable.”

Joyce said the opposition to the nationwide implementation of the program doesn’t make sense during a time of high fuel prices and environmental crises.

“We’re trying to do good by the environment, but we’re also trying to do good by our bottom-line business practices. We’re trying to conserve fuel when fuel is at this high price,” Joyce said. “And somebody fining us for their interpretation, their state’s desire not to participate in the program, is counterproductive to what we think the intentions of the members of Congress were.”

– By Aaron Ladage