OOIDA files comments in 400-pound APU exemption rulemaking

| 7/6/2006

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted comments in response to a proposed rulemaking that would allow a 400-pound weight exemption for idle-reduction technologies.

The comments are in reference to a “notice of proposed rulemaking” that appeared in the Federal Register May 1. Under the proposed provision, a commercial vehicle’s maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit would be increased by 400 pounds, for the purpose of adding a qualified idle-reduction technology, such as an auxiliary power unit.

If the rulemaking is approved, the exemption – which was signed into law by President Bush in August 2005 as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – would make the necessary modifications Title 23, Section 127(a) of the U.S. Code – vehicle weight limitations for interstates.

Specifically, the proposed rulemaking requires, by demonstration and/or certification from the manufacturer, that the idle-reduction technology “is functional at all times, does not exceed 400 pounds gross weight (including fuel), and that the unit cannot be used for any other purpose.”

OOIDA officials said they are in support of the exemption, but some of the wording in the final draft of the rulemaking needs clarification or changing.

“OOIDA believes … that the proposed rule is narrower than the options permitted by the (Energy Bill) statute, and it should be rewritten to ensure easier compliance by drivers and more uniform enforcement by inspection personnel,” officials said in the comments.

OOIDA has asked that an APU’s weight be certifiable by documentation from either the manufacturer, or from the truck owner if the owner built or installed the equipment him or herself. The comments also said a driver’s oral assertion, rather than demonstration or certification, should serve as proof of its ability to function fully at all times, since drivers do not stand to gain anything from carrying a broken APU.

OOIDA also asked that language be included that would prevent inspectors from requiring proof of APU certification unless the vehicle is over 80,400 pounds in the first place, to prevent unnecessary ticketing or inspections.

Additionally, OOIDA officials request that APUs weighing more than 400 pounds still be allowed an exemption for up to 400 pounds of their equipment. Under the proposed rulemaking, trucks hauling heavier APUs would not be eligible for the program’s benefits, the comments said.

By clarifying the rulemaking’s certification requirements and weight provisions, OOIDA officials said they are hoping to prevent enforcement ambiguities that could cause problems for drivers during inspections.

Even if the rulemaking is approved, that doesn’t mean it will be in effect nationwide. According to a memo from FHWA’s Size and Weight Division in November 2005, the exemption is not a federal mandate because of the way it’s worded. It is each state’s prerogative to decide whether to honor the additional weight limit.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer