Texas law permits heavier intermodal loads along border

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, May 26, 2017

A new law in Texas authorizes an increase in truck weights for tractor-trailers hauling intermodal shipping containers. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill, SB1524, to allow seven-axle combinations with a gross vehicle weight of up to 100,000 pounds. Six-axle combinations will be permitted up to 93,000 pounds.

The loads will be subject to various axle configurations.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association previously communicated to Texas lawmakers the Association’s concerns about the issue.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of government affairs, has said the increased vehicle weights will be subject to an annual permit fee of $5,000. He added that the loads will be prohibited on interstates, load-restricted roads or bridges, and other routes set by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The loads must also begin or end at a port-of-entry along the Gulf of Mexico or along the state’s border with Mexico. Affected loads cannot exceed a 30-mile radius. In addition, the new law includes load-sealing instruction, a prohibition on transporting hazardous materials, requirements for permit sticker display and recordation, and provisions for compliance enforcement.

Matousek noted the Association’s concerns in communication with Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, prior to the bill’s passage. Specifically, he pointed out the changes would “unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of the traveling public, provide certain business interests with a significant competitive advantage, and potentially create a number of enforcement challenges.”

The Association adds that trucks with higher gross vehicle weight allowances compromise margins of safety. They are also harder to handle and maneuver, and additional axles or different axle configurations will not entirely mitigate infrastructure damage.

OOIDA does not categorically oppose initiatives that improve productivity and efficiency, but Matousek said these initiatives should not come at the expense of public safety, the deterioration of roads and bridges, or the economic competitiveness of other segments of the trucking industry. Instead, he said the state would be better served to focus more on addressing its structurally deficient bridges, the poor condition of public roads, and a backlog in highway maintenance and capital improvement projects.

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