Arkansas thumbs nose at federal steer axle weight limits

By Jami Jones
staff editor

Truckers can count on a few things to remain consistent state to state.

One thing is - well was - the federally mandated weight and size limits on the national network of highways and interstates.

Recently, Arkansas played the grandfather trump card and decided to enforce a 12,000-pound limit on steer axles in the state.

OOIDA member Jimmy Kendall, a car hauler out of California, found that out the hard way. He entered the state on Interstate 40 at West Memphis, AR. Shortly thereafter, he was confronted with an accusation by a member of the Arkansas Highway Police that he was overweight on his steer axle.

Kendall was given a warning and bought a $400 permit - on the spot - to run in the state.

Randy Ort with the Arkansas Department of Transportation confirmed that the state is, in fact, enforcing a 12,000-pound steer axle weight limit.

He said Arkansas officials’ interpretation of the federal regulations is that the state can grandfather in the lower limit. But, he went on to say that Arkansas’ interpretation was under review at the federal level.

That review consisted of some meetings with federal officials with the Federal Highway Administration.

Nancy Singer with the Federal Highway Administration said this case with Arkansas is the first instance the feds are aware of in which a state is enforcing a lower weight limit on the national network.

She said Federal Highway Administration officials have had several discussions with the Arkansas Highway Police and their legal counsel on the issue of steer axle weight limits.

As part of those discussions, the feds provided both U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulation references that call for states to honor a weight limit of 20,000 pounds on a single axle, including a truck’s steering axle, when the commercial vehicle is operating on the Interstate System or on a reasonable access route connecting thereto.

Despite the initial meetings, Ort confirmed that Arkansas was continuing to enforce the lower limit and will continue to do so until a decision is made.

Rick Craig, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, said the process could be slow and drawn out, but ultimately the feds could compel Arkansas to comply with the federal standards.

“They will probably give Arkansas a pretty good chance to straighten it out,” Craig said.

“They could cut off federal funding, but you don’t see that very often. They try to give them a whole lot of time before they drop the hammer and start taking the federal money away from them.”

For the time being, Ort and Singer confirm meetings are ongoing between state and federal officials.