FHWA responds to FAST

Act impacts size and weight limits

Posted March 2, 2016

Last December President Barack Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act,” into law. The act provided funding for highways and transit over five years. In addition, the FAST Act contained directives for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Both agencies have been reviewing the congressional mandates, and on February 24 the FHWA outlined the act’s impact on size and weight limits. Limits are being adjusted through FAST at both the federal and state levels.

Federal changes include:

  • Milk Products: No longer is bulk milk considered divisible. States may issue permits for milk haulers to exceed 80,000 pounds or the federal bridge formula.
  • Emergency Vehicles: States must allow an emergency vehicle a weight limit of less than 24,000 pounds on a single steering axle, 33,500 pounds on a single drive axle, 62,000 pounds on a tandem axle, or 52,000 pounds on a tandem rear drive steer axle (up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 86,000 pounds). An "emergency vehicle" means a vehicle designed to be used under emergency conditions to transport personnel and equipment; and to support the suppression of fires and mitigation of other hazardous situations. States need to consider these vehicle weight limits when load rating and posting highway bridges.
  • Covered heavy-duty tow and recovery vehicles: A vehicle that is transporting a disabled vehicle from the place where the vehicle became disabled to the nearest appropriate repair facility and has a gross vehicle weight that is equal to or exceeds the gross vehicle weight of the disabled vehicle being transported is not subject to Federal weight limitations.
  • Natural gas fueled vehicles: A vehicle with an engine fueled primarily by natural gas may exceed any vehicle weight limit on a single axle, tandem axle, and bridge formula weights by an amount that is equal to the difference between the weight of the vehicle attributable to the natural gas tank and fueling system carried by that vehicle and the weight of a comparable diesel tank and fueling system (up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 82,000 pounds).
  • Automobile transporter backhaul, length, and overhang: 1) A transporter is allowed to transport cargo or general freight on a backhaul, so long as it complies with weight limitations for a truck-tractor and semitrailer combination. 2) A state cannot impose a vehicle length limitation of less than 80 feet on a stinger-steered automobile transporter with a front overhang of less than 4 feet and a rear overhang of less than 6 feet.
  • Commercial delivery of light- and medium-duty trailers: A state cannot prescribe or enforce a regulation of commerce that has the effect of imposing an overall length limitation of less than 82 feet on a tow-away trailer transporter combination. A "tow-away trailer transporter combination" means a combination of vehicles consisting of a trailer transporter towing unit and 2 trailers or semitrailers with a total weight that does not exceed 26,000 pounds, and in which the trailers or semitrailers carry no property and constitute inventory property of a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer of such trailers or semitrailers.

State specific changes:

  • Grandfathering of operation on highways in Texas: On any segment of US 59, US 77, US 281, US 84, Texas State Highway 44, or another roadway that is designated as I69, a vehicle can operate legally with the limits that were in place before the date of the designation.
  • Grandfathering of operation in Arkansas: On any segment of US 63 between the exits for highways 14 and 75 that is designated as an interstate, a vehicle can operate legally with the limits that were in place before the date of the designation with regards to the single axle weight, tandem axle weight, gross vehicle weight, and bridge formula limits.
  • Covered logging vehicles in Wisconsin: Covered logging vehicles operating on I39 from mile marker 175.8 to mile marker 189 may have a gross vehicle weight of up to 98,000 pounds if equipped with 6 axles or more.
  • Covered logging vehicles in Minnesota: Covered logging vehicles operating on I35 from mile marker 235.4 to mile marker 259.552 may have a gross vehicle weight of up to 99,000 pounds if equipped with 6 axles or more.

While the effective date of the amendments made in the FAST Act was October 1, 2015, (unless otherwise specified) and the date of enactment was December 4, 2015, it may take some time before the states conduct their own processes to implement the required changes. For additional information, visit the FHWA’s FAST site.

This article was written by Rick Malchow of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.


Vehicle Sizes & Weights ManualJ. J. Keller's Vehicle Sizes & Weights Manual has federal and state size and weight limitations plus requirements for overdimensional movements in easy-to-use format.


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