Under some circumstances, the agency now wants 102-inch-wide trucks, standard since the 1980s, limited to what it calls the “National Network” of highways even if those trucks are domiciled in the state. The DOT has issued the necessary proposed rule change and will accept written comments until October 18.
The American Trucking Associations has sued New Jersey over the initial ban, instituted last year, which it claims unlawfully restricts interstate commerce. Most of the affected truck traffic is being forced off traditional truck routes such as Routes 1 and 130 and onto the New Jersey Turnpike, a toll road.
Until now, the New Jersey Motor Truck Association has remained on the sidelines because its members were exempted under the ban. But the new proposal cuts into the exemption, and that could turn the association into an active opponent of the ban.
New Jersey Motor Truck Association President Sam Cunninghame would only say that the proposed rule "narrows our original understanding with the state." The association has asked the DOT to ease the ban on four-lane, divided highways such as Routes 1, 130 and 17, all of which are traditional interstate truck routes, Cunninghame said.
According to some sources, the new DOT initiative resulted from a May accident in which a truck New Jersey-based truck hauling garbage from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania crashed into a video store on Route 179 in Lambertville, killing a 54-year-old woman. The truck ban has been championed by the Tri-State Transportation Group, a New York-based coalition of activist organizations, which has gained the cooperation of many New Jersey politicians.
The group has also asked that local police be allowed to enforce the ban. Enforcement is currently limited to the state police. Cunninghame said that in some instances, local departments have already issued tickets to out-of-state trucks. However, he said, local police are still not authorized to enforce the DOT rule.
Local enforcement could lead to trucks being stopped in every local jurisdiction along a particular highway. That would cause delays even for state-based fleets.
The new proposed rule change would carefully define the term "trip" in DOT regulations. The result would restrict New Jersey-based trucks on runs between two out-of-state points. A New Jersey-based truck picking up in New York City, for example, would be forced onto the New Jersey Turnpike with a load to Philadelphia. It would only be allowed on the restricted highways on its way to or from its actual domicile.
Due to the state’s small size and proximity to major metropolitan areas, many New Jersey-based fleets haul between out-of-state points and would be made subject to the ban. In most cases, they would be forced to pay tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Details of the proposed ban and other information can be found on the Web at: www.state.nj.us/transportation/truck/index.html.