OLR BILL ANALYSIS
AN ACT CONCERNING WRECKERS AND TOW TRUCKS.
The law allows wreckers holding an annual permit to exceed state and federal weight limits when towing large disabled vehicles under certain circumstances. This bill requires the transportation commissioner to adopt regulations creating a new permit that can be used under broader circumstances than the current annual permit and has a lower fee. It is unclear how this new permit fits in with the law's requirement that tows of overweight vehicles that do not meet the criteria for the existing annual permit be made under a single-trip permit.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage
EXISTING ANNUAL PERMIT
State and federal law establish weight and size restrictions that normally apply to vehicles using the national highway system, but allow for exceptions. State law establishes limits on a vehicle's gross (total) weight and the weight on any single axle.
Current state law allows a wrecker with an annual DOT permit to tow or haul a vehicle from a highway when the combined gross weight of the wrecker and towed vehicle exceed the legal limits if the towed vehicle (1) was in an accident, (2) became disabled and remains within the limits of a highway, or (3) is being towed to the nearest licensed repair facility or its truck terminal at police direction. The bill expands the exemption to allow the vehicles to exceed the “axle gross combination weight limits” (apparently the limits on individual axle weights) or federal bridge formula requirements for vehicles with divisible or nondivisible loads (see BACKGROUND).
The bill requires that wreckers meet the criteria of an emergency response vehicle, as defined by federal law, to tow oversize vehicles.
By law, all other towing operations in which towed vehicles or loads exceed statutory weight limits must obtain a DOT single-trip permit. (By regulation, a single-trip permit is valid for three days and for one trip between designated points. ) As with the annual permit, above, the bill allows wreckers with single-trip permits to exceed the axle gross combination weight limits or federal bridge formula requirements. Because under existing law, unchanged by the bill, wreckers towing oversize or overweight loads must have either an annual or single-trip permit, it is not clear how the new permit (see below) complies with this permitting scheme.
NEW ANNUAL PERMIT
By law, the transportation commissioner must adopt regulations setting standards for overweight vehicle permits. The bill requires the regulations to provide for a new “wrecker towing or transporting emergency permit” that can be used more broadly than the annual permit described above. The bill would allow a wrecker, provided it complies with highway, bridge, and speed limits set by the commissioner, to tow a wrecked or disabled vehicle up to 75 miles.
Under current law, a wrecker with the annual permit can tow a wrecked or disabled vehicle only to the nearest licensed garage or the trucking firm's terminal. Also, under current law, a disabled vehicle that was not in an accident can be towed from a highway only if it remains within the highway's limits. Under the bill, a wrecker with the new permit may tow a disabled vehicle regardless of whether it remains within these limits. It is not clear if the bill's provisions allowing wreckers to exceed statutory weight limits under the current annual or single-trip permit also apply to wreckers under the new permit.
Under current law, the fee for the annual permit for vehicles transporting divisible loads or overweight, oversized, or overweight and oversized indivisible loads, is $ 7 per 1,000 pounds or fraction thereof. The annual fee for a vehicle transporting an oversize indivisible load must be at least $ 500. Under the bill, the annual fee for the new permit is $ 125 for a wrecker with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds or less, and $ 250 for wreckers with a GVWR of at least 26,001 pounds.
Divisible and Indivisible (or Nondivisible) Loads
An indivisible load is one that cannot be dismantled, disassembled or loaded to meet legal size or weight limits (e. g. , a bridge beam); a divisible load includes bulk material and raw products that can be reduced in size or weight to meet these size or weight limits (e. g. , sand, gravel, or asphalt) (Conn Agency Regs. § 14-270-1 (b) & (h)).
Federal Bridge Formula
The federal bridge formula, which Congress enacted in 1975, determines the maximum allowable weight for a vehicle based on the number of axles and the distance between axle groups. Connecticut adopted the federal formula in 1980 (PA 80-71).
By law, the axle weight on any axle and the gross weight of any vehicle or combination of vehicle and trailer or vehicle and semitrailer or any other object, including its load, may not exceed the lesser of the manufacturer's axle weight rating, the manufacturer's GVWR, or specific axle and gross weight limits (CGS § 14-267a). In most cases, the law also provides an alternative for calculating the maximum allowable gross weight by means of the federal bridge formula.