North Dakota will soon test longer truck size and weight

June 24, 2021

Keith Goble

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A new law in North Dakota could soon result in longer and heavier trucks on state roadways.

Gov. Doug Burgum recently signed into law legislation to authorize the state Department of Transportation to test “road trains” on certain roadways in the state.

The bill signed by the governor permits a one-year pilot program to test road trains, or “long combination vehicle operations,” on roadways that are not a part of the national network.

No state currently allows more than three trailers to be pulled by a single tractor.

Revised version signed into law

Senate lawmakers voted in January to advance a measure to authorize the governor to increase size and weight limits of commercial vehicles.

The introduced version, SB2026, did not provide details on size and weight limits that would be pursued.

Since the bill was introduced, trucking interests that include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have cautioned lawmakers about moving forward with increased size and weight limits.

“If you move forward with this, you’re going to unnecessarily impact a tremendous amount of capacity in an industry that simply doesn’t need it,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh communicated to state lawmakers. “… all so a few shippers or private special interests can save money and move cheap freight. In other words, you are going to pick winners and losers.”

“You’re on the wrong side of this issue and highway safety will suffer as a result,” he added.

Changes made along the way

As the truck size bill progressed through the statehouse revisions were made to the controversial provisions.

The final version approved by the governor is more limited in scope. Specifically, the state DOT will oversee the program.

Pilot programs that include operating on county, city, or township roads must be approved by local authorities. The provision is intended to address traffic safety considerations and costs directly attributed to the pilot project.

The NDOT director is authorized to waive certain statutory size and weight restrictions for the pilot projects.

Finally, the highway agency is required to report its findings and recommendations for continued use of the program by Aug. 1, 2022.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said the Association will be watching closely the results of the pilot projects.

“We’re not thrilled with the outcome, but it could have been much worse,” Matousek said.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the pilot projects, including how it might impact highway safety and what sort of reaction the motoring public has once they see these combos out on the road.”

Related resolution

Also approved by the Legislature is House Concurrent Resolution 3001. The resolution encourages Congress to increase federal truck size and weight standards to benefit a road train pilot program. The non-binding effort covers state highways and interstates that are part of the National Network in North Dakota and surrounding states.

The resolution defines road trains as “a trucking vehicle consisting of two or more connected trailers or semitrailers linked and hauled by a single operating prime mover or tractor which may exceed overall length and total gross vehicle weight limitations, but not exceed current statutory axle load limitations.” LL

More Land Line coverage of news from North Dakota is available.

 

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.