Lawmaker asks Chao to examine car hauler 'overhang' enforcement

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Friday, February 10, 2017

An Arkansas Congressman is pushing for the new head of the U.S. Department of Transportation to take a closer look at statutes addressing “overhang” for car-haulers.

In a letter to new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Congressman Bruce Westerman, the Republican representing Arkansas’ 4th District, invoked President Donald Trump’s plan to reduce or eliminate “unnecessary and burdensome regulations.” Westerman addressed the Federal Highway Administration’s interpretation of overhang provisions with respect to trailers that don’t allow a vehicle to be transported over the power unit.

Westerman’s letter states that the FHWA’s current interpretation of the definition of automobile transporter is “narrow and unjustified.”

“The agency believes that to be considered an automobile transporter the power unit (i.e., the truck) must be capable of carrying automobiles,” Westerman’s letter stated. “Therefore, a non-cargo-carrying tractor high-mount trailer combination is not considered to be an automobile transporter.”

According to Mike Matousek, director of state legislative affairs at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Association began receiving complaints in 2015 from car-hauling members that scale houses in Missouri were issuing warnings for car haulers who had “overhang” on the rear of their trailers.

This interpretation of the law is one both Matousek and Westerman say has no rooting in federal law or regulation. Federal regulation CFR 658.5 defines an automobile transporter as “any vehicle combination designed and used for the transport of assembled highway vehicles, including truck camper units.”

Without the overhang exemption for overall length, Matousek said OOIDA estimates a non-overhead car hauler would have to remove anywhere from one to three vehicles, resulting in a loss of 13 to 39 percent of capacity, and a corresponding loss of income.

“Our hope is that with the new administration, they want to figure out ways to address unnecessary and burdensome regulations,” Matousek said. “We hope that with a new Secretary, and perhaps a new administrator of the agency, they can go ahead and make this change.”

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