Last July, Gov. Christie Whitman issued an executive order banning 102-inch-wide, out-of-state trucks from "local" highways. The resulting NJDOT regulation limits big trucks not making local pickups and deliveries to the highways on New Jersey's "national network," which includes I-78, I-80, I-287 and I-295. It also includes I-95, which for most of its length is the New Jersey Turnpike, a toll road.
For most of the past year, police have issued warnings or, at worst, turned truckers around. But on May 20, according to New Jersey State Police spokesman John Hagerty, officers began writing tickets. It had taken that long, he said, "to get all the legal t’s crossed and i’s dotted."
Hagerty said the most recent reports available indicate state police have issued 78 tickets for violation of the ban. Conviction for a first offense carries a fine of $400; a second offense is $700 and any succeeding violations cost $1,000 each.
Since May 20, Hagerty said 664 trucks had been stopped and inspected on prohibited roads. Of those, police took 50 out of service and issued 192 summonses for motor vehicle and safety violations.
Under current regulations, only State Police can enforce the ban. Local police do not have the statutory authority, he said.
The American Trucking Associations and U.S. Xpress, the Chattanooga-based truckload carrier, have filed suit to overturn the ban, which includes such traditional truck routes as U.S. 1 and U.S. 130. Interstate truckers who normally use those roads have been forced onto the New Jersey Turnpike, which is implementing a 13 percent toll increase this year to be followed by another 13 percent hike in 2003. Users of the E-ZPass automated toll system will pay 8 percent now and 8 percent in 2003.
A New Jersey DOT spokesman said the state had just installed 200 new signs to warn out-of-state truckers of the ban. Thirty more signs were yet to be installed, he said.