Statement on Issues Relating to Use of Local Roads by Heavy Trucks
Presented to Governor-elect Christie’s Transportation Subcommittee
To the Transition New Jersey Committee
By Honorable David DelVecchio, Mayor of Lambertville and
Past President, NJ League of Municipalities and
Chairman, League Heavy Truck Task Force
December 8, 2009
The diversion of heavy truck traffic to local roads, not designed for such vehicles, poses real risks to the public’s safety. High concentrations of residences and businesses are located along these roads. Children walk or ride their bikes along these roads.
Such traffic also increases the strain on local roads and the cost of their maintenance. And it increases traffic safety enforcement costs.
Accordingly, we have long been involved in this, through our Heavy Truck Task Force.
The 1982 Federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act significantly changed the federal role in the width, length and weight of heavy trucks. Prior to the enactment of this law, federal involvement in these matters was limited. The changes created by the 1982 act were dramatic in the sense that Congress preempted most of the state's authority with respect to width, and partially with respect to length of trucks.
New Jersey regulations were proposed in 1986 after several years of preparation, debate and comments from the public. The regulations became effective in February of 1987 and designated a National Network for large trucks (greater than 96" wide but not more than 102" wide and trailers greater than 48 feet but not more than 53 feet in length and for double bottom trailer combinations). The regulations also designated roads (mostly state and county 500 series roads) that the large trucks could use for access to terminals in the State.
In 1999, New Jersey began to restrict 102-inch wide standard trucks and double-trailer Truck combinations that do not have an origin or destination within New Jersey from using state highways that have physical characteristics that detract from suitability to be included in the large truck network. These vehicles were restricted to the national network; however, they were permitted to travel up to two roadway miles from the Access Network and one roadway mile from the National Network, respectively, to facilities providing food, fuel, rest and repairs.
Those roads, highways, streets, public alleys or other public thoroughfares that could not safely accommodate a truck wider than 96 inches and were so designated by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), continued to be unavailable to these vehicles.
In 2000, the American Trucking Association and U.S. Xpress, a Tennessee-based trucking company, filed suit in U.S. District Court for New Jersey, challenging the statute and regulations that restrict interstate through trucks wider than 96 inches to the national highway network. American Truck Association, Inc. and U.S. Xpress Inc VS. Christine Todd Whitman, James Weinstein, Col. Carson Dunbar and John J. Farmer Jr. (Docket No, 04-2201).
The plaintiffs filed suit against then Governor Whitman, NJDOT Commissioner Weinstein, State Police Superintendent Dunbar and Attorney General Farmer. They alleged that the state regulations violate the commerce clause, equal protection, the privileges and immunities clause, and the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures, due process 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They requested a preliminary injunction that was not granted.
In the suit noted above, in March 2004, a U.S. Superior Court declared unconstitutional New Jersey's truck routing restrictions on 102-inch wide and double tractor-trailer combinations, finding that they violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court concurrently allowed a stay that permitted New Jersey's truck routing restrictions to remain in affect while the state appealed this decision to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which New Jersey did.
On February 21, 2006 the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion New Jersey's appeal of the U.S. Superior Court decision, upholding the lower court decision and declaring New Jersey's restrictions on 102-inch wide and double tractor-trailer combinations unconstitutional.
On February 24, 2006, the Department of Transportation issued a Certificate of Imminent Peril and Emergency Regulations reinstating the pre-1999 truck routing regulations, so as to hold minimal routing restrictions in place while alternatives to those regulations found unconstitutional can be developed. Concurrently, the Department filed a rule proposal for these same regulations. The Emergency regulations went into effect on February 24, 2006.
The New Jersey large truck routing regulations were established in compliance with the Federal Highway Administration's regulations for truck size and weight and the reasonable access provisions for commercial motor vehicles authorized by the amended federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982.The rules were developed through consultation with a truck task force, chaired by the Commissioner of Transportation, consisting of affected constituency groups, including the League of Municipalities, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Motor Truck Association The hierarchy of roadways outlined in the new rules includes the National Network (comprised primarily of Interstate highways, the Atlantic City Expressway, and the New Jersey Turnpike and parts of other roads such as Routes 42, 81, 130, 322 and 440), the New Jersey Access Network (comprised of State highways and some county roadways) and local unrestricted roadways. The final rules require large trucks to utilize the National Network unless seeking food, fuel, rest, repairs or to reach a terminal by the direct route, which entails the shortest travel distance. Upon completing each trip, the large truck should return to the National Network in a manner consistent with reaching its next terminal. Trips off the National Network or the New Jersey Access Network onto all other local unrestricted roadways should only be for the purpose of accessing a terminal on those roadways by the shortest distance.
In contrast to the 1999 truck regulations, which were ruled unconstitutional, current New Jersey Department of Transportation rules apply the routing requirements equally to both interstate and intrastate 102-inch wide standard trucks and double-trailer truck combinations.