A small federal controversy has erupted because an Oklahoma
commission wanted to conduct trucking productivity and roadway
strength experiments. The controversy could come down to who
interprets state laws.
In May the Oklahoma Trucking Industry Self-funded Research and
Development (TISRAD) Committee, made up of representatives from two
branches of government and private industry, decided to test
over-loaded trucks on state highways starting July 1. The test
would have offered significant data regarding road surfaces required
to handle this type of equipment and what kind of productivity gains
could be expected.
Under the test, trucks with multiple trailers, weighing in
excess of 108,000 pounds, would have been issued special permits to
drive along designated routes in Oklahoma.
However, a local official of the Federal Highway Administration
of the U.S. Department of Transportation heard of the project and
ordered it stopped.
Regulations prohibit a truck weighing more than 90,000 pounds
from using federal-aid highways, according to a letter from Bruce
Lind to Oklahoma Transporation Director Neal McCaleb.
Now, it appears as if a summit conference between federal and
state officials is all that will solve the problem created by that
letter in late July.
Members of the TISRAD committee unanimously agreed that McCaleb
should invite federal highway officials to Oklahoma to discuss the
At issue is contention that when the interstate highway system
was authorized in 1956, federal regulations prohibited trucks of
more than 90,000 pounds gross vehicle weight without a special
permit. However, a grandfather clause in the requirements said that
if state regulations allowed trucks of a heavier weight, that weight
will still be allowed on federal-aid highways.
"The question is, who interprets the state laws," McCaleb told
the TISRAD Committee. "Our grandfathered state law allows us to
issue permits for these (over-loaded) trucks in four instances.
"The one that we are primarily concerned with is the one saying
that the permit be for a single load which cannot be divided. Since
what we wanted to test would require more than one trailer, it would
appear that this would not constitute a single load."
Oklahoma's trucking industry contends that Lind is mistaken and
that such an experiment would be legal as well as beneficial.
"Apparently the Oklahoma City (Federal Highway Administration)
office is not familiar with this kind of question since they
referred the matter to their Washington (D.C.) office," wrote Vince
Robison, president of the Associated Motor Carriers of Oklahoma, to
Lt. Gov. Robert S. Kerr III, TISRAD co-chair. "It is also clear that
whoever responded in behalf of FHWA (Federal Highway Administration)
from their Washington office is not familiar with the law as it
relates to the demonstration project and special permits."
The TISRAD project is similar to a triple-trailer project
approved in South Dakota, Robison said, which should make it legal
in Oklahoma. …