Unified for uniformity

24 April 2008

Permitting processes and procedures that reflect cooperation between government and industry enhance safety, mobility and efficiency across the highway system. Conversely, a system of fragmented, disjointed and restrictive permit regulations hurts our nation by causing lost productivity, higher prices and diminished opportunities.

Our collaborations with industry partners and government officials gradually have yielded important improvements. Further achievements can be clearly seen on the horizon, particularly in the West. In California, Arizona and Nevada, our efforts now focus on weight limitations on tridem-axle configurations that differ significantly from most neighboring states.

Today, one of our members can move a load of equipment with tridem-axle configurations from the East coast to the Nevada-California border before being waylaid by different permitting rules. At that point, the load must be transferred to an entirely different piece of equipment.

The additional time, equipment and personnel required for this maneuver increases transportation costs by 15 to 25 percent. Ultimately, consumers end up eating much of this needless expense.

Serious, detailed discussions over the past several years have finally convinced California of the need to change its requirements to become compatible with those of most other states. Having seriously considered factors such as the capabilities of roadways and bridges, California is in the process of instituting reasonable, commonsense regulations. We are optimistic that California's analyses and the resulting decision will persuade Arizona and Nevada to adapt the same regulations.

This activity builds on the tradition of cooperative efforts within the four regions of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). We anticipate further progress as regional transportation representatives embrace permitting improvements that promote more efficient and economical movement of goods from state to state.

Recently, however, we have witnessed an alarming increase in individual municipalities requiring permits to use roadways within their jurisdictions. For example, SC&RA has supported efforts to standardize local permitting for heavy haulers in Virginia's Hampton Roads Planning District, where hauling permits were required from seven separate entities. The lack of uniformity among the regulations resulted in an administrative and operational nightmare for haulers.

Of course, this problem is not limited to Virginia. Thousands of municipalities now require separate permits — often without coordination with state permit authorities — and the number is growing.

To better understand the scope and impact of municipal permitting, SC&RA's Transportation Group has submitted a proposal to the SC&R Foundation to undertake a research project. The study would examine one state in each of the four AASHTO regions, identifying all counties and municipalities that require permits and maintain official permitting processes separate from those of the state.

In addition to demonstrating how some municipal permitting requirements hinder the specialized transportation industry, the study should also identify state and municipal practices that have eliminated or minimized duplicative, counterproductive and burdensome permitting requirements. The study could then be used as a valuable tool for SC&RA and its members as we move ahead to resolve some of these issues.

As always, permitting issues will be among the chief concerns discussed during SC&RA's annual Specialized Transportation Symposium, March 9-11, in St. Louis, MO. We are proud of the way this forum brings together industry executives and government officials to develop solutions that benefit everyone.

Beyond the symposium, rest assured that SC&RA will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to improve the safe and efficient movement of oversize/overweight goods throughout North America.

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