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American Idle
Wiggle room: The 400-pound APU exemption reg

By Land Line staff

Remember the federal law from a few years ago that was intended to give truckers a 400-pound weight exemption for auxiliary power units? The industry hailed it as good news until we found out the law was not a “mandate.” A federal law that carries no clout with the states is not much of a law if your business is hauling interstate.

In Land Line, we published a copy of the federal language for truckers to carry in their trucks. Still, many truckers told us the states regarded it with little more than a “so what?”

The exemption, which was signed into law by President Bush in August 2005 as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, increases a vehicle’s maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit by 400 pounds. This allows for the adding of qualified idle-reduction technology, such as an APU.

While the rule was approved, a memo out of the Federal Highway Administrations Size and Weight Division in November 2005 threw water on the good news by adding that the exemption wouldn’t be treated as a federal mandate.

Here’s an excerpt from the FHWA memo: “We determined that (the exemption) does not pre-empt state regulations or compel the states to grant the increased weight tolerance.”

After the federal “suggestion” was published, Land Line began receiving reports from truckers that enforcement officials in a number of states blew off the higher limit. Florida is one of those states that won’t acknowledge it. Officials with some states told Land Line and OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department that they were not explicitly acknowledging the exemption, but that their weight tolerances would cover an additional 400 pounds.

However, the federal law is finally gaining traction in some states.

In 2007, a handful of states – Arkansas, Kansas, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin – adopted a 400-pound exemption law in some form or another.

Finally, this year some other states are moving on this, too. Since the first of the year, similar attempts have been made in a number of states.

In Missouri, a lengthy transportation bill includes a provision that would increase the maximum gross vehicle, axle, tandem or bridge formula weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. It would authorize affected trucks to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds. At press time, the bill was on the governor’s desk.

A new law in Nebraska includes a 400-pound exception for anti-idling equipment. It also specifies that the weight allowance cannot be in addition to the “5 percent in excess of maximum load” provision in existing state law.

Meanwhile, advocates for the rule change in Alabama and Illinois were unsuccessful in their attempt to add the 400-pound exemption to state law this year. LL


State Legislative Editor Keith Goble and Managing Editor Sandi Soendker compiled this joint report.