Feds urged to issue 'best practices' to states for permitting oversize, overweight loads

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Monday, March 02, 2015

The May 2013 collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge in Washington state could change the way states issue permits for oversize and overweight truck loads.

In a report published Feb. 27, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a recommendation to the Federal Highway Administration to study state permitting processes and develop “best practices” for states to consider moving forward.

Investigations into the 2013 bridge collapse spread the blame around not just to the trucker and trucking company transporting an over-dimensional load that struck overhead bridge supports prior to the collapse, but also to the pilot car company and operator and the state permitting office.

The investigation into the collapse revealed that the trucker did not know, or did not report, the accurate height of the load to Washington state when he obtained a permit that took him across the Skagit River Bridge. Investigators also took issue with the fact that Washington state only required one pilot car to accompany the load in question. Some states require more than one depending on the circumstances.

By studying the way states collect information and issue load permits, the GAO says the Federal Highway Administration can identify best practices and share them with other states.

“Specifically, GAO found that the vehicle size and weight limits set by state laws and regulations vary by state, although they are within the parameters of federal requirements. For example, states’ length standards vary between the minimum federal standard of 48 feet and 65 feet for a semitrailer,” the GAO stated in its report.

“GAO also found that permitting practices for oversize vehicles often vary by state. In some cases, states follow similar practices; for example, most states make use of online permitting systems and escort vehicles that travel with an oversize or overweight vehicle. However, other permitting practices vary by state – such as states’ use of automated routing systems to provide a route for oversize vehicles.”

The Federal Highway Administration is also currently studying the effects of truck size and weight on infrastructure, highway safety and the economy. Truck sizes and weights have largely remained frozen since 1991.

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