[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 250 (Thursday, December 30, 1999)]
[Pages 73600-73602]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-33859]



Federal Highway Administration
[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-99-6466]

Specialized Hauling Vehicle (SHV) Study

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of study; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The FHWA is announcing the initiation of a study required by 
Congress in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-
21). Section 1213(f) of the Act directs the Secretary to examine the 
economic, safety and infrastructure impacts of truck weight standards 
on specialized hauling vehicles (SHVs). The Secretary is to report the 
results of the study to Congress and make any recommendations he 
determines appropriate as a result of the study, by June 9, 2000.
    SHV's are generally single-unit trucks that have high tare (empty) 
weights from heavy-duty cargo-carrying bodies and special equipment to 
help load or unload their cargoes. They often require short wheelbases 
in order to access and maneuver safely at the types of loading and/or 
unloading facilities they serve. Because of the short wheelbase, the 
maximum legal weight for an SHV as determined by the federal bridge 
formula is often below the vehicle's gross weight limit as determined 
by individual single and tandem axle limits. SHV's are commonly 
considered to include: solid waste removal trucks, home fuel oil 
delivery trucks, construction material dump trucks, and cement transit 
mixers. Certain tractor-semitrailer dump vehicles hauling bulk 
construction materials might also be considered SHVs.
    To gather data for this study, the FHWA requests information from 
State DOT officials, vehicle manufacturers, SHV operators, and other 
interested parties having knowledge of the weights and dimensions of 
the various types of SHVs, how these vehicles are used in various 
operations (trash removal, fuel oil delivery, hauling of construction/
building materials), and the effects of truck size and weight limits on 
the productivity, safety and infrastructure impacts of those 
operations. The Agency is particularly interested in what provisions, 
if any, each State has excepting or permitting these vehicles to 
operate at weights above standard weight limits.

DATES: In order to be fully considered in the study, comments are 
requested by February 28, 2000. The docket will remain open for 
comments until the study is completed, but the study schedule may not 
allow full consideration of comments received after February 28, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Your signed, written comments must refer to the docket 
number appearing at the top of this document and you must submit the 
comments to the Docket Clerk, U.S. DOT Dockets, Room PL-401, 400 
Seventh Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. All comments received 
will be available for examination at the above address between 9 a.m. 
and 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Those 
desiring notification of receipt of comments must include a self-
addressed stamped envelope or postcard.

Transportation Policy Studies, HPTS, (202) 493-0173, or Mr. Charles E. 
Medalen, Office of the Chief Counsel, HCC-20, (202) 366-1354. FHWA, 400 
Seventh Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Office hours are from 
7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal 

Electronic Access

    Internet users may access all comments received by the U.S. DOT 
Dockets, Room PL-401, by using the universal resource locator (URL): 
http://dms.dot.gov. It is available 24 hours each day, 365 days each 
year. Please follow the instructions online for more information and 
    An electronic copy of this document may be downloaded using a modem 
and suitable communications software from the Government Printing 
Office's Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 512-1661. Internet 
users may reach the Office of the Federal Register's home page at: 
http://www.nara.gov/fedreg and the Government Printing Office's 
database at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara.


    SHVs are generally single-unit trucks that, along with special 
cargo-carrying bodies, have equipment to help load and/or unload their 
cargoes. These specially equipped vehicles typically have high tare 
(empty) weights. SHVs are commonly considered to include: trash 
removal, home fuel oil delivery, dump, and cement transit mixers. Their 
operations often involve travel in inner city business districts, 
residential areas, or construction sites to load or unload. In these 
environments, SHVs require

[[Page 73601]]

short wheelbases in order to access and maneuver safely at the 
facilities they serve.
    For several reasons, the specialized characteristics of these 
vehicles result in high ratios of transport costs to commodity values 
relative to those of general freight commodities. First, the specially 
equipped cargo-carrying bodies are generally used to haul low-value, 
bulk commodities and typically have high tare weights. When considered 
with the Federal weight standard applied to the short wheelbase of 
these vehicles, the high tare weight and high density of the 
commodities hauled generally restrict the legal payload well below the 
cargo capacity of the vehicle. Second, given the specialized 
characteristics of the cargo-carrying body of the vehicle, backhaul, or 
reload, opportunities are limited or nonexistent, resulting in a high 
percentage of empty miles. These vehicles' commodity and transport 
operating characteristics result in relatively high transport costs per 
ton-mile of cargo carried.
    In order to accommodate vehicle operators' desire to utilize more 
of the cargo carrying capacity of the vehicle and reduce transportation 
costs, many States allow higher axle and gross weights off the 
Interstate Highway System than are allowed under Federal weight limits 
that apply to Interstate Highways. A 1993 study of dump vehicles 
conducted for the State of Maryland showed that 15 states and the 
District of Columbia allowed three-axle single-unit dump vehicles to 
operate on non-Interstate roads at gross weights above the maximum 
allowed under Federal axle-weight limits. In many cases these higher 
limits were also allowed on the Interstate Highway System through 
grandfather rights that allow States to retain weight limits that were 
higher than Federal limits when the Federal limits went into effect.
    The increased productivity of higher weights comes at a price in 
terms of increased infrastructure deterioration and potential 
degradation to vehicle handling and stability. When loaded to higher 
weights, these vehicles cause disproportionate wear to pavements and 
bridges relative to those operating at Federal weight limits. In 
addition, the higher weights coupled with short cargo-carrying bodies 
typical of SHVs make them less stable than trucks of the same 
dimensions carrying less weight or trucks of greater length carrying 
the same weight.

Study Approach

    The FHWA proposes to proceed with the study in three phases: (1) 
Outreach to understand views on SHV weights held by various interested 
groups and to gather information on vehicle dimensions, costs, and 
operating characteristics including trip patterns, areas of operation, 
roadway classes traveled, operating weights and annual mileage; (2) 
analysis of current SHV operations including economic, safety and 
infrastructure impacts; (3) identification of changes that have the 
potential to improve productivity and safety while minimizing 
infrastructure impacts.

Phase 1: Public Outreach

    The FHWA is soliciting public input on all aspects of SHV 
operations as well as on the general study approach described in this 
notice. The Agency is particularly interested in participation by State 
DOT officials, vehicle manufacturers, and SHV operators and each 
group's perspectives on the effects of truck size and weight limits on 
the productivity, safety, and infrastructure impacts of SHVs. Previous 
studies of SHV impacts prepared for individual States are also of 
interest and the FHWA requests that States having undertaken such 
studies send a copy of the study report to the docket.
    The Agency is seeking information on: (1) The segments of the 
trucking industry that use SHVs, (2) current size and weight limits, 
including exceptions and permitting, for SHVs by State, (3) vehicle 
characteristics, (4) operating costs, and (5) trip characteristics. 
This information is needed for all types and sizes of SHVs.
    Request for Information: Respondents to this notice are requested 
to address the following items or questions in comments to the docket. 
The responses to these questions will be used to perform the impact 
analyses of Phases 2 and 3 of the study.
Segments of the Trucking Industry Utilizing SHVs
    1. Specialized hauling vehicles are generally considered those 
vehicles with operating characteristics requiring short wheelbases for 
accessing, and maneuvering safely in, loading and unloading locations. 
They also have specialized equipment for loading/unloading, carry bulk 
commodities, and tend to have relatively short trip lengths with empty 
backhauls. Vehicles commonly considered SHVs include dump trucks, solid 
waste haulers, home fuel delivery trucks, and cement transit mixers. 
What other specific types of trucks meet these general criteria and 
should be included when considering policy issues related to 
specialized hauling vehicles?
Vehicle Characteristics
    2. What are the current tare (empty) weights and dimensions of 
various types of SHVs? The following dimensions are important for the 
     Vehicle width.
     Track width.
     Chassis height.
     Axle spreads between axle groups and within axle groups.
     Height of center of gravity for cab, chassis, and cargo 
     Cargo space dimensions or cargo capacity.

How have vehicle weights and dimensions changed in recent years? Are 
changes in vehicle weights and dimensions anticipated in the future?
    3. What is the typical horsepower of various SHVs?
Trip Characteristics
    4. What is the payload--the difference between the maximum 
allowable vehicle weight and the empty weight--of various SHVs? What is 
the density of the commodity hauled (pounds per cubic foot)?
    5. What are the typical usage patterns of various SHVs? What is the 
average trip length? If there are large variations in trip length from 
day to day or season to season, what is the distribution of trip 
lengths during the year? What percentage of mileage is operated while 
fully loaded? Partially loaded? Empty? What percentage of mileage is 
operated on Interstate Highways? On other limited access highways? On 
other arterial roads? On local roads? What is the average annual 
mileage for different types of SHVs?
Operating Costs
    6. For purposes of estimating economic impacts of changes in 
vehicle weight limits, what are the average hourly wages for operators 
of various types of SHVs? What is the cost and the expected useful life 
(in years and mileage) of the various types of SHVs? What is the fuel 
consumption when empty and when loaded of the various types of SHVs?
    7. What operating taxes and user fees do the various types of SHVs 
pay by State? At what weights in excess of Federal standards are SHVs 
allowed to operate and does operating at those weights require a 
special permit or additional fee? If so, what is the weight/fee 
Size and Weight Regulations
    8. How do Federal weight limits affect operations of various SHVs? 
Which weight limits (axle load, bridge formula,

[[Page 73602]]

or gross vehicle weight) have the most significant impact and why?
    9. How do Federal divisible load regulations affect SHV operations?
    10. How do Federal weight limits affect the safety of SHVs? What 
would be the impacts of changes in weight limits on safety?
    11. How do Federal weight limits affect infrastructure costs? What 
would be the impacts of changes in weight limits on pavement and bridge 
    12. Are there any operating restrictions (speed, time of day, 
route) on SHVs operating under excess weight permits that would not 
apply to the same vehicle operating within Federal weight standards?
    13. What opportunities exist to improve productivity while also 
improving safety and minimizing adverse impacts on pavements and 

Phase 2: Analysis of Current SHV Operations

    Many States have special weight provisions on non-Interstate 
highways for specific trucking operations such as dump trucking. 
Although not always the case, these special weight provisions are often 
extended to the Interstate System through grandfather rights. The 
analysis undertaken in this phase of the study will examine the 
economic, safety and infrastructure impacts of the current set of truck 
size and weight limits for SHVs, including divisible and non-divisible 
overweight permit provisions of the various States. This will be 
accomplished utilizing data gathered in the Phase I Outreach, as well 
as established data sources including the Truck Inventory and Use 
Survey (TIUS) collected by the Department of Commerce, and Trucks 
Involved in Fatal Accidents (TIFA), an enhancement of National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration safety data compiled by University of 
Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Analytical tools used in 
the Department of Transportation's Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight 
Study will be used to assess infrastructure and safety issues.
    State provisions for higher operating weights allow SHV operators 
to carry a given volume of commodity in fewer trips. This increase in 
productivity has the positive effects of reduced truck travel, which 
decreases fuel consumption and related emissions, and lower 
transportation costs per ton-mile.
    Higher allowable operating weights of SHVs also impact the 
condition of highway infrastructure. Pavement damage per SHV vehicle 
mile traveled increases due to heavier axle loadings. Bridge stresses 
per SHV loading also increase with the higher weights. Bridge stressed 
depend not only on the gross weight of the vehicle, but on the 
concentration of the load, or the bridge area supporting the load. 
Thus, a short wheelbased SHV will generally cause more bridge stress 
than longer wheelbased vehicles of the same gross weight and lower 
gross weight vehicles of the same wheelbase.
    Increased SHV weights may also impact highway safety. Because they 
generally haul dense, bulky commodities on short wheelbases, vehicle 
handling characteristics may be affected. At higher weights, there may 
be an increase in rollover propensity from a higher center of gravity 
and reduced braking capability from a high gross weight to braking axle 
    This phase of the study will provide illustrative examples of the 
operational economics, infrastructure and safety impacts for States 
where SHVs routinely operate legally at weights in excess of the 
Federal standard. The effectiveness of various permit program fee 
structures in recovering additional infrastructure cost will be 
assessed and to the extent practical, the impact of these programs on 
illegal overweight operations. The analysis will utilize information 
collected during Phase 1 of the study supplemented with data from TIUS 
and TIFA and other analytical tools developed for the Comprehensive 
Truck Size and Weight Study.

Phase 3: Analysis of Weight Standards for SHVs

    Based on the Phase 2 assessment of Federal and State weight limits 
and permitting practices and the current usage of SHVs, Phase 3 of the 
study will analyze the implications of alternative Federal axle load, 
gross vehicle weight, and bridge formula weight limits and alternative 
permitting practices as they apply to SHVs. Factors to be considered 
shall include transportation costs and other economic impacts, safety, 
and pavement, bridge, and other infrastructure impacts.
    The method for Phase 3 analysis will be similar to that used in 
Phase 2, an illustrative case study of potential economic, 
infrastructure and safety impacts from increased weights for various 
types of SHVs in States where weights are currently determined by the 
Federal Bridge Formula and Federal axle limits. Many of the analytical 
tools developed for the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study will 
be used in assessing impacts of alternative weight limits and 
permitting practices.

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 315; 23 U.S.C. 217 note; 49 CFR 1.48.

    Issued on: December 16, 1999.
Kenneth R. Wykle,
Federal Highway Administrator.
[FR Doc. 99-33859 Filed 12-29-99; 8:45 am]