September 30, 1992, Transmittal 5

NS 23 CFR 658



  1. NATIONAL NETWORK FOR TRUCKS (23 CFR 658.11). Section 658.11 specifies the requirements and procedures for States to add or delete highway sections from the National Network. The FHWA has been attempting to limit its involvement in adding and deleting routes available to STAA vehicles to those instances when Federal preemption authority is needed or has been used. The FHWA will process State requests for deletion of routes using rulemaking procedures, unless the routes would remain available by State authority. The FHWA will process proposed addition of routes using rulemaking procedures where Federal authority is required to make the routes available and the Governor (or designee) makes the request. Virtually all other changes to the National Network will be handled by new nonregulatory procedures.

  2. INTERPRETATION OF VEHICLE LENGTH PROVISIONS (23 CFR 658.13 and 658.19). Section 658.13 sets length limitations for vehicles operating on the National Network including automobile transporters. Section 658.19 specifies reasonable access requirements States must meet including those for household goods carriers. Two issues have arisen regarding: overall length limits for standard 48-foot semitrailers transporting automobiles on the National Network (NN), and access between the NN and points of loading and unloading for household goods carrier vehicles transporting automobiles.

    1. With regard to the first issue, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) provides that States may not impose an overall length limit on truck-tractor semitrailer combinations where the length of the semitrailer does not exceed 48 feet or the grandfathered length. This applies whether they are carrying autos or any other cargo. However, it does not authorize autos to be transported on the truck-tractor or to overhang the semitrailer. States, on the other had, may allow either or both of these provisions within their jurisdictions. In other words, an auto transporter must choose between a 65-foot (75-foot stinger-steered) overall length limit or a 48-foot (orgrandfathered) semi-trailer with no overall length limit, but if the latter is chosen the carrier may forfeit the right to overhang or to transport cargo on the truck-tractor, depending on what the State allows.

    2. With regard to the second issue, under the STAA, house-hold goods carriers operating semitrailer combinations where the semitrailer is not over 48 feet (or the grand-fathered length) have access to points of loading and unloading. When a household goods carrier includes one or more automobiles along with other household goods in a van-type semitrailer, they should be accorded the same access. However, household goods carrier using conventional or stinger-steered automobile transporter semitrailers must be accorded only the same access as all other vehicles authorized by the STAA, that is, access to terminals and facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest.

  3. TRUCK ACCESS - VEHICLE WEIGHT (23 CFR 658.19). Federal law requires States to provide reasonable access from the National Network to terminals and to facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest for STAA dimensioned vehicles. The question has arisen whether States are required to provide reasonable access to vehicles meeting Interstate weight requirements but exceeding weight limits set by States for its non-Interstate routes which will provide the required access.

    1. Section 658.19 of 23 CFR remains applicable only to the dimensions (width, length, configuration) of commercial motor vehicles. It does not implement the statutory requirement that reasonable access to and from the Interstate System also be provided for vehicles meeting certain gross and axle weight limits and the bridge formula. Therefore, there is no requirement that State reasonable access provisions provide reasonable access for vehicles subject to Federal weight requirements.

    2. However, all States must consider existing and proposed weight limits in light of 23 U.S.C. 127 (a) and (b), that pertain to vehicle weight limitations for the Interstate System. Vehicles meeting the weight limits of Federal law for operation on the Interstate System must be allowed reasonable access from the Interstate System to terminals and facilities for food, fuel, repairs and rest. While the FHWA has included the statutory requirements in 23 CFR 658.17, the section does not have more specific implementing provisions. Although "terminal" was recently defined broadly in 23 CFR 658.5(r), the definition applies only for access to and from the National Network by STAA dimensioned vehicles.

    3. Nevertheless, any limits on access for the weights of vehicles conforming to Federal weight law must be reasonable, with each State having the obligation to ensure that reasonable access exists. Section 127(b) preempts conflicting State laws or regulations, and the FHWA has authority to seek injunctive relief to enforce the requirement. The agency has not specifically defined the extent of the access that would be required to meet the "reasonable" standard. The FHWA believes, however, this requirement was intended to apply only to highways constructed and/or maintained by State agencies. In view of the sprawling collection of service facilities that has grown up around many inter-changes, the FHWA believes a State weight regulation which limited access to a distance of less than one mile from an Interstate highway would be clearly unrea-sonable. It would also be unreasonable to discriminate between vehicles of the same lawful weight, on leaving or attempting to reach the Interstate System, and another operating entirely on State highways, unless their dimensions alone warranted such disparate treatment. Weight-access restrictions beyond a one-mile distance should rely on bridge structural capacity and traffic safety considerations of specific routes. Federal weight law places on the State the obligation to ensure reasonable access.

    4. In the absence of a rule to implement 23 U.S.C. 127(b), the FHWA is not in a position to approve State weight-access regulations.

  4. STATE REASONABLE ACCESS PROVISIONS (23 CFR 658.19(i)). Section 658.19(i) requires each State to have a process by which requests for reasonable access from the National Network to terminals and to facilities for food, fuel, rest, and repairs can be evaluated. Some States proposed to use highway geometric criteria as the primary factor in deter-mining whether to grant access. Section 658.19(i)(2)(i) requires that a test vehicle, application of vehicle templates, or a general provision allowing access for vehicles with a kingpin distance of 41 feet or less be used to determine if access is to be provided.

    1. The Federal regulation [23 CFR 658.19(j)(2)] allows the States to request FHWA approval of provisions that differ from the Federal requirements if such provisions provide access reasonable for STAA-dimensioned vehicles and do not impose unreasonable burdens on motor freight carriers. The geometric criteria identified in some State submissions clearly do no meet this test, as the degree of access would be more restricted than would be attained through the use of the Federal criteria. Therefore, the State provisions do not meet the intent of 23 CFR 658.19(i)(2)(i). States must either demonstrate to FHWA that their provisions, in fact, do provide access that is reasonable or revise their provisions to clearly show that one or more of the approaches specified in 23 CFR 658.19(i)(2)(i) will be used as the principal basis for evaluating requests for access.

    2. States may consider other factors, such as specific geometric criteria, in evaluating requests for access so long as the application of such factors clearly does not discriminate against STAA-dimensioned vehicles.

        (1) For example, a minimum lane width requirement of 12 feet would automatically eliminate a significant number of roads that may be able to safely accommodate STAA-dimensioned vehicles for purposes of access. The truck access study conducted by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) found that lane width has only a minor effect on the safe operation of STAA-dimensioned vehicles except for lane widths of 10 feet or less.

        (2) Likewise, a 4-foot shoulder width requirement would automatically eliminate a large number of roads that would be able to safely accommodate STAA-dimensioned vehicles. Many States across the country permit operation of STAA-dimensioned vehicles on sections of road with lane widths less than 12 feet or without 4-foot shoulders; therefore, we find the absolute application of a 12-foot lane width or a 4-foot shoulder width provision unacceptable. The Federal regulation specifically attempts to direct the States to implement access policies which are consistent with the ability of the proposed route to accommodate the vehicle.

    3. The FHWA notes that in some instances the geometric criteria are cited as guidelines; however, very little is presented in the States' submittals on how the criteria will be applied. For example, does failure to meet one of the criteria eliminate a route for use by STAA-dimensioned vehicles for access? Is there some combination of criteria that automatically eliminates the route from consideration? Will the criteria be used for all STAA-dimensioned vehicles or only selected ones? Will the criteria be applied to pre-STAA-dimensioned vehicles as well as STAA-dimensioned vehicles? Before the FHWA could consider approving any alternate provisions it would need to know how the criteria compare with the approaches specified in 23 CFR 658)i)(2)(i). None of the State submissions provided this type of information.

    4. If the States want to use provisions that differ from the Federal requirements, they must include clear and detailed analyses to show that such provisions provide access that is reasonable for STAA-dimensioned vehicles. The FHWA does not feel that the identifi-cation of geometric criteria alone provides an adequate process for evaluating requests for access. The TRB report, together with other States' experiences, supports this conclusion.

    5. The relationships among these and other geometric factors in evaluating the ability of roads and streets to accommodate STAA-dimensioned and other vehicles are complex and cannot be readily quantified. This is why the approaches identified in 23 CFR 658.19(i) (2)(i) were chosen. In particular, the vehicle test drive provides an excellent basis for examining vehicle performance on a specific road being traversed. Since offtracking may be a major concern in some cases, the use of vehicle templates provides a practical way to evaluate low-speed turning movements at intersections.

    6. In the many States that have provided very broad or unlimited access for STAA-dimensioned vehicles, no significant problems resulting from such policies have been reported. The intent of the final rule issued on June 1, 1990, will not be met if geometric criteria are rigidly applied which do not achieve a "comparable" degree of access to that which would be possible using the Federal criteria.

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