Federal Legislation Passed to Increase Federal Highway Weight Limits for CNG Vehicles

Senator Joe Donnelly and a colleague partnered in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-114publ94/pdf/PLAW-114publ94.pdf), Section 1410, to provide a 2,000 lb. weight exemption for natural gas vehicles:

A vehicle, if operated by an engine fueled primarily by natural gas, may exceed any vehicle weight limit (up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 82,000 lbs.) under this section by an amount that is equal to the difference between—

(1) the weight of the vehicle attributable to the natural gas tank and fueling system carried by that vehicle; and

(2) the weight of a comparable diesel tank and fueling system.”

Note that this addition applies specifically to the section of the U.S. Code (23 U.S. Code 127; https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2014-title23/pdf/USCODE-2014-title23-chap1-sec127.pdf) that regulates operation of vehicles on the “Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways” (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwayhistory/interstate.cfm). It does not apply to other roads within a state; regulations for those roads are dictated by state laws and regulations. The 23 U.S. Code 127 dictates that the federal government can withhold up to 50% of federal highway funding if the state does not uphold weight limits on federal highways – specifically, 20,000 lbs. on one axle and 34,000 lbs. on a tandem axle; see the code for additional information. The addition of the NGV exemption above allows for vehicles to exceed their vehicle-specific weight limit by 2,000 lbs.

In reviewing the law, for a state to not lose their highway funding, it must honor the exemption above on interstate highways. However, we are not aware of any states that automatically adopt the new federal weight exemption for NGVs on other roadways.

Refer to the Alternative Fuels Data Center Laws and Incentives database (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/10934) for information about states that have adopted weight exemptions for NGVs (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws). The Advanced Search options (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/laws/search) allow users to identify specific incentives by location, technology/fuel type (e.g., natural gas), incentive/regulation type (e.g., exemption, other regulation), and user-type (e.g., vehicle owner or driver).

At the writing of this newsletter, there were four states (including Indiana) that have NGV weight exemptions:

Colorado
Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Weight Limit Exemption

Gross vehicle weight rating limits for AFVs are 1,000 pounds greater than those for comparable conventional vehicles, as long as the AFVs operate using an alternative fuel or both alternative and conventional fuel, when operating on a highway that is not part of the interstate system. (Reference Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-508)

Illinois
Natural Gas and Propane Vehicle Weight Exemption

A vehicle powered by natural gas or propane may exceed the state’s gross, axle, and bridge vehicle weight limits by up to 2,000 pounds. This exemption does not apply on interstate highways. (Reference Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/15-111)

Indiana
Idle Reduction and NGV Weight Exemption

Any motor vehicle equipped with an auxiliary power unit or other idle reduction technology may exceed the gross, single axle, tandem axle, or bridge formula weight limits by up to 400 pounds to compensate for the added weight of the idle reduction technology. Furthermore, any NGV may exceed the limits by up to 2,000 pounds. (Reference Indiana Code 9-20-4-1)

Virginia
Idle Reduction and NGV Weight Exemption

Any motor vehicle equipped with an auxiliary power unit or other idle reduction technology may exceed the gross, single axle, tandem axle, or bridge formula weight limits by up to 550 pounds to compensate for the added weight of the idle reduction technology. Furthermore, any NGV may exceed the limits by up to 2,000 pounds. (Reference Virginia Code 46.2-1129.1 through 46.2-1129.2)