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Whether carrying the blade for a new wind turbine headed to West Texas or towing the last section of someone’s lake house bound for East Texas, the everyday spectacle of oversize/overweight tractor-trailers on Texas highways is like a miniature parade. The two main reasons that Texas regulates overweight vehicles on state-funded roads are the protection of motorists as well as the preservation of infrastructure that supports Texas’ economy. Penalties can range from $5,000 per day for noncompliance with the state’s enforcement program or even $15,000 per day for knowingly violating the applicable laws. Courts can also order injunctive relief to combat egregious offenders or even deny, suspend, or revoke their registration as a motor carrier in the state of Texas.
When a motor carrier cannot reasonably disassemble an overweight/oversize load to be carried, the state has to strike a balance between maintaining the roads that help our state economy thrive and ensuring that these loads, which are so frequently the building blocks of the state’s infrastructure like concrete beams or oil refinery equipment, can travel where they need to go. The state recently enhanced the shortcomings that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) was experiencing in handling the volume of overweight/oversize permits, beginning with redirecting the revenue from penalties and fees straight to state highway funds or those of local counties who receive the highest number of overweight/oversize traffic.
Enforcing the permitting program has three components: Education, Monitoring, and Penalties. Education involves statewide presentations at industry events, posting notices of changes to regulations, and conferences with public and private stakeholders to keep regulations effective yet not overly burdensome. Monitoring involves implementation of complaint management through an online portal on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles’ website, regular and/or complaint-based inspections by state officials, and investigations ranging from one incident to systemic violations by a particular motor carrier. In addition to the costly penalties for an infraction, further penalties can be completely up to a judge’s discretion, if a motor carrier is found to be violating overweight/oversize regulations after a court-ordered injunction.
Texas overweight/oversize trucking traffic is definitely growing. Compare the permits issued in 1995 at 420,512 with 590, 980 estimated permits in 2012 based on the amount of permits already issued for this year. The dimensions of height, length, and weight are all considered to determine the necessity for an overweight/oversize permit. Furthermore, based on how extreme any one of these dimensions are, an oversized vehicle will need at least one if not two escorting vehicles in front and behind to ensure the vehicle can fit through obstacles like underpasses on any designated route.
If you see any motor carriers that do not appear to be complying with the overweight/oversize regulations, you can report a complaint to the Texas Department of motor vehicles by either calling 800-863-5312 or visiting their online portal at https://www.dmv.state.tx.us/apps/cms_dmv/. Remember that a motor carrier who is out of compliance with laws designed to protect you as a motorist may be proven to be negligent simply for breaching a statutorily imposed duty in a motor vehicle accident. If you need legal assistance for injuries sustained from a motor vehicle accident, please call the law office of Zinda Law Group PLLC.