In March (2018) SC&RA announced Uniform Permit Transport 2021 (UPT2021) – an initiative with a goal of establishing harmonization between all 50 states.
Two of the primary goals for UPT2021 are to encourage all states to allow minimum weight thresholds, and to analyze and issue permits via automated permit systems, 24-7. More than 30 states presently use systems that auto-issue permits, in some cases greater than 16 feet wide and high and 250,000 gross pounds.
The ultimate aim is to gain 100 percent compliance across the country by the year 2021. To that end, SC&RA has proposed 11 envelope vehicle configurations that make up many of the typical overweight permits issued by states in the U.S. The 11 selected configurations are already approved in several states.
UPT 2021 pertains only to those loads defined by the Federal Government as “non-divisible” loads – those that cannot be dismantled in less than eight hours, or if dismantled, would compromise the intended use of the vehicle or destroy the value of the load. Typical non-divisible loads include items such as construction equipment, bridge beams and transformers.
Currently, Oversize/Overweight (OS/OW) trucks travel across state lines, but experience different requirements and weight allowances in each, leading to delays and added costs to consumers. UPT2021 will advocate for widespread acceptance of more comprehensive and representative permitted weight configurations issued under routine or auto-issued permits.
Almost a year since the 2018 announcement, Steven Todd, SC&RA Vice President, Transportation, has seen steady progress with UPT2021 via several phases.
“Phase one of UPT2021 was the establishment of benchmarks by the permit committee and the governing group,” he noted, “while phase two was the hiring of a very credible consultant – the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). We chose them because they’re reputable within our state DOT officials and engineers.”
Todd pointed out that the purpose of the study was to determine from a cost analysis standpoint, what, if any, economic disadvantage occurred not only to SC&RA member carriers but, more importantly, to their customers – manufactures based in various states. “What type of economic disadvantage does the lack of harmonized permit weight allowances in some states cause to the economy?” he maintained.
At the end of the ATRI study, and a subsequent SC&R Foundation follow-up study, it was determined that there was an increase in transportation costs of between 45–82 percent when a specialized carrier is forced to move through or around a barrier state. Todd added, “Again, this would be a state that, unlike the majority of states, will not even recognize and/or analyze a very common configuration used by SC&RA members.”
Todd also gave high praise to the SC&R Foundation for their contribution to the study, which – in addition to the follow-up study and white paper – they funded.
Dave Wittwer, Senior Vice President at Hays Companies, was nominated and voted in as president of the Foundation for the 2019-2021 term at the SC&RA annual Board Meeting in Maui, HI last month. He was also chair of the Foundation’s Research Committee that voted and supported funding the ATRI study.
“The ATRI study quantifies the anecdotal evidence that barrier states increase the cost of doing business for the motor carrier, shipper and, ultimately, the customer,” he emphasized. “Additionally, barrier states ultimately lose substantial economic impact; harmonization is as much an economic issue as it is a regulatory issue.”
Wittwer firmly believes the Association is on the right track in its goal to establish harmonization between all 50 states on OS/OW envelope configurations by 2021. “Absolutely – every state that participates in harmonization is a win-win for the industry and the state,” he said – adding that SC&RA’s method thus far has proven to be effective and representative of the pathway towards that goal. “Forty-five to eighty-two percent increased cost quantifies the issue in a way that state governors and economic development groups can easily understand. Moreover, it gives motor carriers, manufacturers and others the required data to advocate for barrier states to embrace harmonization.”
In Maui, Wittwer raised questions that focused on economic development. “Essentially, how will SC&RA use the ATRI study to get the attention of economic leaders in the barrier states?” he affirmed. “One answer is to present the findings at the state meetings during the Specialized Transportation Symposium [February 19-22, in Houston]. Second, SC&RA has contacts within the National Governor’s Association – economic development is a language that speaks to a state leader. The ATRI study is an economic development resource.”
According to Todd, next steps will involve sending the study, along with the Foundation follow-up and white paper, to all 50 state DOTs. “Paul Ross and I will follow up individually with those barrier states,” he said. “And phase three will consist of soliciting partner organizations – state trucking associations, national and local manufacturing associations, local and regional economic development councils and organizations – all of those organizations whose members and/or communities are adversely affected because the manufacturers based within their areas are unable to compete with other competitors in surrounding states that are not barrier states.”
With nearly a year of R&D productively in the books for UPT2021, Todd underscored that automating the permitting process will save SC&RA member companies millions of dollars annually, and ultimately generate multiple benefits, not the least of which are safer roads for all motorists, as higher percentages of carriers legally obtain and run on state-issued permits.
“Additional benefits include increased revenue for states, which can be used on infrastructure due to the higher volume of permits being issued,” he said. “Manufacturers also end up paying more to transport their products, and those costs are passed along to consumers. Ultimately, it’s nearly every citizen/taxpayer bearing the burden. UPT2021
is a formidable initiative, without a doubt, but doing nothing at this point is no longer an option.”