The issue focused on the FHWA's definition of nondivisible load.
With the help of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s regulatory department and a clarification from the Federal Highway Administration, a truck driver’s $14,400 fine for having an overweight load was dismissed.
Jordan Mikesell, a truck driver for Ralph Smith Co., West Bountiful, Utah, was cited on July 9 after attempting to enter the Evanston, Wyo., port with what authorities in Wyoming claimed was a divisible load.
Mikesell was hauling a Grove crane from which the block had been unreeved and stowed in a place on the crane that is engineered for the block to ride during transport. The driver was authorized to haul the load from Utah to Wyoming, where he was to purchase the permit to travel through Wyoming.
He presented the load and was told to remove the block from the secure transport location and either re-reeve it or put it on another truck. Mikesell then argued that if the block was reeved that it would be swinging over the air tanks and brake valves, potentially causing an accident.
Mikesell ultimately attached the block and secured it to the frame of the crane and was cited for entering the port with an overweight divisible load.
Ralph Smith Co.’s Doug Smith, who is an OOIDA member, decided to fight the hefty fine.
“I was pretty shocked that they would call that a divisible load,” Smith said. “I asked the lieutenant for the chapter and verse of the regulation.”
Lt. Dan Wyrick of the Wyoming Highway Patrol emailed Smith back regarding his questions and cited a portion of the regulation that states, “The operator shall be required to unload the excess weight, reduce the excess weight, reduce the excess size, or otherwise bring the load within permissible limits and pay all fees for overweight or oversize under this act for distance traveled in addition to penalties provided by law.”
Wyrick added in his email that the regulation “requires the divisible part of a load to be removed.”
“We were not close to being over Wyoming permitted weights for nondivisible loads as our load entered Wyoming,” Smith wrote in an email response to Wyrick. “The Evanston port personnel required that the old man (block and hook) had to be attached and hanging from the crane. This is not the safest method and leaves a 500-pound piece of rigging suspended over the transport trailer air tanks and brake valves. What could happen? It has happened to us before when the tie back sling failed, and the block smashed an air tank and brake valve.”
The federal definition of a nondivisible means any load or vehicle exceeding applicable length or weight limits which, if separated into smaller loads, would:
- Compromise the intended use of the vehicle.
- Destroy the value of the load or vehicle.
- Require more than eight hours of work to dismantle using appropriate equipment.
Several states have focused in on the third part of the definition, saying that it typically takes far less than eight hours to dismantle.
Smith contacted OOIDA about the issue and began working with Trevor Williams from the Association’s regulatory department.
Williams was able to inform Smith that the FHWA confirmed in May the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association’s interpretation of what constitutes a nondivisible load.
In the clarification, FHWA asserted that loads may still be defined as nondivisible if the removal of the objects will make the load unable to perform the function and/or unusable for which it was intended.
A pretrial conference over the citation was held at the Uinta County Circuit Court in August. Smith said the assistant county attorney quickly dismissed the fine after being presented the FHWA’s clarification.
“That clarification is what we needed to slay the dragon,” Smith said.
“I knew OOIDA was going to do something to help.” LL