Permit industry adapts and overcomes
By Hannah Sundermeyer03 February 2021
Hannah Sundermeyer reports on permitting updates and market insight as the industry looks towards a new year.
Much like many other facets of the crane, rigging and transportation industry, Covid-19 has significantly affected the permitting process as we know it.
“Initially some states, cities and counties restricted travel for oversize movements,” said Scott Boehm, president, West Chester Permit. “Many jobsites were shut down until safety protocols could be put in place. Many trucking companies struggled to find drivers to travel to ‘hot’ spots.”
The government and permitting industry had to adapt and overcome a vast amount of challenges as a result of Covid-19.
“Like much of the world, many government permit offices had to adapt to working remotely,” said Boehm. “They did a great job rerouting phones and giving access to their remote users with short notice. Many government employees worked later than their scheduled hours to ensure essential loads got to where they needed to go. Some of these loads were for hospitals or manufacturers of medical equipment.”
West Chester is still seeing a lot of wind blades, tower sections, aircraft, mobile and modular homes, generators, steel, cranes and construction equipment being hauled and remains positive about the market.
“Many of our customers have increased their volume due to Covid related projects,” said Boehm. “Contracts still need to be fulfilled and some companies are expanding as they adapting to demand for new products.”
Alongside overcoming the permitting challenges associated with navigating the Covid landscape, it’s important to note that SC&RA’s initiative, Uniform Permit Transport 2021 (UPT2021), still aims to establish automated permitting and eventually harmonization between all 50 states.
UPT 2021 looks to add several new strategic objectives in order to move the remaining yellow and red states to green. Recognizing that no two states are the same when facing barriers to automated permitting, UPT 2021 will take a more tailored approach to identify, educate and assist on an individual state-by-state basis.
“This approach will also include expanding the audience for automated permitting to leadership across state transportation agencies, in turn enabling permit officials and SC&RA members alike to build new and additional champions,” said Chris Smith, vice president of transportation, SC&RA. “For example, many state transportation planners may be unaware of the immense amount of data generated by automated permitting services. That data can be used to make significant actionable policy and funding decisions that mutually benefit both the state and the specialized transportation industry.”
States like Colorado, Texas and Minnesota have used permit data to change policy and project making decisions that are wins for industry, including raising minimum vertical clearances to 18 feet, preserving critical high wide and heavy highway corridors and prioritizing projects that benefit specialized freight carriers.
In addition, effective November 22, 2021, the state of Virginia will require all applications for OS/OW permits to be submitted electronically using an online permitting system.
At the end of 2020, North Carolina became the 37th state to begin issuing single trip Oversize/Overweight (OS/OW) permits. Upon implementation of North Carolina’s system, only 13 states remain without any auto issuance capabilities of single trip OS/OW permits. UPT2021 successs was also seen in Texas and Indiana. Texas OS/OW single-trip permits now list a provision allowing drivers to deviate from their permitted route for food, fuel, repair or rest. In Indiana, as a result of SC&RA advocacy, the most restrictive police escort policy state in the U.S. is reducing the restriction. Previously, Indiana required four state police escorts for overweight permit loads.