Weights & Measures Amendments
In the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act or "FAST Act" in 2015, Congress attempted to exempt towers from weight restrictions which limit our ability to move disabled or damaged vehicles from the interstate. While well-intended, the language contained in the FAST Act does not provide the weight and size exceptions required for using modern heavy duty tow vehicles. The language needs to be amended to accurately define which heavy-duty tow and recovery vehicles are covered and clarify that towers can access the scene of an accident.
UPDATE: TRAA’s proposed language to amend Section 31111 of title 49, United States Code, on length limitations did pass the House version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021. Unfortunately, our amendment was not included in the Senate version of the bill and therefore, not signed into law. However, TRAA continues to work with Members of Congress and safety groups on this important issue.
Existing FAST Act Language
The bill language did provide some relief from the Federal Bridge Formula, including axle weights, while towing a disabled vehicle from the primary point of disablement. However, there are issues with the bill:
- The bill only cited “disabled” vehicles so many state enforcement agencies have misinterpreted it to mean only a disabled vehicle (not a wrecked or impounded vehicle).
- Most states have only extended the exception when the tow truck is in-tow. In other words, towers are still required to obtain permits to legally operate some of the largest heavy duty tow trucks when en-route to a call. However, once in combination with a disabled vehicle, and therefore much heavier, the tow truck is then exempt from the Federal limits.
- The last issue revolves around the word, or lack of the word “rating”. Many states apply the strictest interpretation and do not extend the weight exception to any combination with a heavy tow vehicle that does not weigh equal to or in excess of the vehicle they’re towing. They’ve taken the current language to mean a covered heavy tow vehicle (wrecker) must physically weight 80,000 pounds if it is to tow an 80,000-pound disabled tractor trailer from the highway. This is not practical with modern heavy tow vehicles. The average heavy wrecker weights around 40-45,000 pounds and, therefore, is not covered.
Proposed Weights & Measures Changes
TRAA supports language that recognizes the challenges that the towing industry faces in keeping traffic flowing smoothly on our interstate system, as well as the differences that distinguish towing and long-haul trucking. TRAA has proposed language that addresses the above concerns with a small number of amendments to the existing FAST Act language.
Additionally, TRAA is also working to have new language added (which covers length of vehicles) that will allow for towers to transport combination vehicles to the nearest appropriate repair facility or other location as needed for safety. TRAA believes these important changes to existing laws will make for a marked increase in safety for towing personnel and the motoring public by reducing the amount of time, equipment and manpower required to clear a wrecked or disabled vehicle from the nation’s highway system. By allowing one truck with one operator to tow a combination vehicle rather than two trucks with two operators the exposure is cut in half, as is the time on-scene due to not needing to split tractor trailers on the shoulder. This process is especially difficult, almost impractical, with specialty units such as tankers and auto transporters.
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