SC&RA’s Push for Uniform Oversize Permits in 2024
The Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA) continues its full court press for greater uniformity in the myriad of different oversize and overweight permit policies across the United States and Canada.
Buoyed by federal government studies noting their essential function throughout national emergency management, as well as making significant discretionary grant funding available to states to adopt auto-issue systems, our successful UPT 2021 campaign for 24/7 auto-issue permit systems today sees only nine states still requiring human review for many single-trip permits.
Regarding the national and regional harmonization of key permit policy issues themselves, a 2021 SC&RA audit revealed that 60% of all states fulfilled their commitments to meet baseline standards across several categories.
The states themselves are eager to continue their work toward a third phase of permit harmonization in 2024, also a top agenda item for SC&RA headed into the new year.
Buried within these positive national and regional trends, however, is a story that shows our industry continues to face specific challenges at the state-by-state level.
Last year, the association prioritized five states where key issues remain the most concerning for our members. For example, California remains one of the nine states to not yet develop an auto-issue permit system. New England, Massachusetts remains the only state restricting any loads or equipment that weighs more than 130,000 lbs., including mobile cranes.
Those restrictions cause costly delays. To tackle its “Top 5” states, the SC&RA refined our approach from sledgehammer to scalpel.
In 2023, we began using member advocacy as a key tactic, and we will continue using it in the coming year. This approach relies first on our greatest strength — a grassroots network of nearly 1,300 members who, collectively, do business, live, pay taxes, and vote in every single state.
We are now asking our members to remind leaders in the states where they live and do business of the essential role that the specialized transportation, crane, and rigging industry serves in building safer, stronger, and prosperous communities everywhere.
The success of our members’ advocacy was immediate.
By February 2023, the Iowa legislature unanimously gave its department of transportation major flexibility of key permit policies if the transport supported emergency relief or special economic opportunities. In North Dakota, the state harmonized its permit duration to a reasonable five days, accepted new configurations as non-divisible loads, and now allows night travel for loads up to 12' wide.
As we enter 2024, our work is far from done. California and Massachusetts remain top priorities.
In the West, Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma remain the few states who do not yet allow 60,000 lbs. per tandem axle on the demonstrably safer and more efficient 9-axle West Coast trunnion trailers.
While these permit policies present challenges to our industry, there are still more on the horizon far beyond the permits themselves.
How will de-carbonization goals among varying states affect the way we travel or the equipment we use?
What do the varying legal climates mean for our risk management operations?
Even the handful of truly federally preempted standards like those for meal and rest breaks are at risk of dis-harmonization heading into the new year. Though these issues and states rose to the top of a recent member survey, other simpler problems scored just as highly.
Key questions like “Is there a person I can talk to at the DOT to get some help on my permit application?” or “What is permit harmonization, and why is it important?” linger. They call on us to not only press on for bigger things, but to ensure the core fundamentals remain sound. With so much on the horizon, SC&RA and its members must be more prepared than ever to engage at every level of government.
Symposium Feb. 20-22
Our upcoming Specialized Trans-portation Symposium, Feb. 20-22, 2024, in Houston, Texas, brings industry and government together to tackle these tough questions. And, the symposium is only one of several major SC&RA events and opportunities for the collective voice of our industry to be heard.
The year 2024 is just the beginning. Stay tuned.
For more information about SC&RA or the Specialized Transportation Sym-posium, visit www.scranet.org.
Chris Smith is the Vice President of Transportation at the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association.