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Definition of Automobile Transporter

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Trucking

Definition of Automobile Transporter

Brandye L. Hendrickson
Federal Highway Administration
14 September 2017


[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 177 (Thursday, September 14, 2017)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 43198-43199]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-19516]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Highway Administration

23 CFR Part 658

[Docket No. FHWA-2017-0030]


Definition of Automobile Transporter

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This document requests comments on including non-cargo-
carrying tractor-high mount automobile semi-trailer combination in the 
definition of automobile transporter in the FHWA's guidance.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 16, 2017.

ADDRESSES: To ensure that you do not duplicate your docket submissions, 
please submit them by only one of the following means:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting 
comments.
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., W12-140, Washington, DC 
20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is (202) 366-
9329.
     Instructions: You must include the agency name and docket 
number at the beginning of your comments. All comments received will be 
posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov including any 
personal information provided.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about the Definition of 
Automobile Transporters, contact Crystal Jones, FHWA Office of Freight 
Management and Operations, (202) 366-2976, or by email at 
Crystal.Jones@dot.gov. For legal questions, please contact William 
Winne, FHWA Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1397, or by email at 
William.Winne@dot.gov. Business hours for the FHWA are from 8:00 a.m. 
to 4:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    You may retrieve a copy of the notice through the Federal 
eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. The Web site is 
available 24 hours each day, every day of the year. Electronic 
submission and retrieval help and guidelines are available under the 
help section of the Web site. An electronic copy of this document may 
also be downloaded from the Office of the Federal Register's home page 
at: http://www.archives.gov/federal_register and the Government 
Publishing Office's Web page at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov.

Background

    Federal laws and regulations pertaining to vehicles that are 
classified as automobile transporters, and providing for a minimum 
vehicle length and allowable overhang lengths for these configurations, 
support the safe and efficient movement of autos by truck through 
States and across State lines. In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31111(a)(1) 
and 23 CFR 658.5, the term ``automobile transporter'' means any vehicle 
combination designed and used for the transport of assembled highway 
vehicles, including truck camper units. Federal regulations classify 
automobile transporters as specialized equipment and identify three 
possible configurations of automobile transporters: Traditional, ``low 
boys,'' and stinger steered. 23 CFR 658.13(e)(1)(i). As provided in 23 
CFR 658.13(e), and in the definition of a ``Tractor or Truck Tractor'' 
at 23 CFR 658.5, automobile transporters may carry vehicles on the 
power unit behind the cab and on an over-cab rack.
    If a vehicle is classified as an automobile transporter, no State 
shall impose an overall length limitation of less than 65 feet on 
traditional automobile transporters, including ``low boys,'' or less 
than 80 feet on stinger-steered automobile transporters. 49 U.S.C. 
31111(b)(1)(G). All length provisions regarding automobile transporters 
are exclusive of front and rear cargo overhang. For traditional 
automobile transporters, no State shall impose a front overhang 
limitation of less than 3 feet or a rear overhang limitation of less 
than 4 feet. 23 CFR 658.13(e)(1)(ii). For stinger-steered automobile 
transporters, no State shall impose a front overhang limitation of less 
than 4 feet or a rear overhang limitation of less than 6 feet. 49 
U.S.C. 31111(b)(1)(G).
    Other truck tractor-semitrailer combinations (not specifically 
defined as automobile transporters) are subject to the length 
provisions of 23 CFR 658.13(c). Under this regulatory provision, States 
determine the maximum length limits for semitrailers operating in a 
truck tractor-semitrailer combination; but no State shall prohibit the 
use of trailers or semitrailers of such dimensions as those that were 
in actual and lawful use in such State on December 1, 1982, as set out 
in appendix B to 23 CFR 658.
    It is a longstanding FHWA policy position, established through 
guidance, that to qualify as an automobile transporter as defined in 49 
U.S.C. 31111(a)(1) and be treated as specialized equipment as described 
in 23 CFR 658.13(e)(1)(i), both traditional and stinger-steered 
automobile transporter combinations must be capable of carrying cargo 
on the power unit/tractor. Because a truck-tractor in high-mount, 
truck-tractor-semitrailer combination is not capable of carrying 
vehicles on the power unit, FHWA's current policy interpretation is 
that such a vehicle combination may not be considered an automobile 
transporter subject to the length allowances in 23 CFR 
658.13(e)(1)(ii).
    In response to the recent inquiries, FHWA has considered the 
definitions and length provisions that apply to automobile transporters 
and language in the Surface Transportation Act of 1982 section 411(f), 
which states ``a tractor and semitrailer engaged in the transportation 
of automobiles may transport motor vehicles on part of the power 
unit,'' and finds that it may be within the Department's current 
legislative authority to interpret this language to include auto 
transporter combinations that are not capable of carrying vehicles on 
the power unit, such as a high-mount, truck-tractor-semitrailer 
combination, without additional action from Congress.

[[Page 43199]]

    Defining the high-mount combination as an automobile transporter 
would trigger the use of the same length allowances that currently 
apply to a traditional automobile transporter. In doing so, Federal 
laws would govern the operation of this vehicle on certain roadways, 
and no State would be able to impose an overall length limitation of 
less than 65 feet or a front overhang limitation of less than 3 feet or 
a rear overhang limitation of less than 4 feet for this vehicle 
combination.

Purpose of the Request

    The FHWA is requesting comments from affected stakeholders and the 
public regarding interpreting the statutory and regulatory language to 
include a high-mount, truck-tractor-semitrailer combination as an 
automobile transporter and treating the combination as specialized 
equipment. Comments are requested on the following questions related to 
defining a high-mount, truck-tractor-semitrailer combination as an 
automobile transporter:
     How will the inclusion of a high-mount, truck-tractor-
semitrailer combination in the definition of automobile transporter 
impact the flow of Interstate commerce?
     Are there safety issues with a high-mount, truck-tractor-
semitrailer combination as an automobile transporter as it relates to 
the operation of this vehicle configuration on the National Network?
     What are implementation implications (e.g. roadside 
enforcement and changes to State laws) if Federal versus State laws 
would govern the operation of this vehicle configuration on the 
National Network?
     What State laws are currently in place regarding a 
highmount, truck-tractor-semitrailer combination? Please provide legal 
citations, if applicable.
     Are there States that allow the high-mount, truck-tractor-
semitrailer combination to operate under the same length provisions as 
a traditional automobile transporter?
     Is there any other information relating to safety, vehicle 
productivity, or infrastructure preservation relevant to these 
questions?

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 31111 and Section 411 of the Surface 
Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-424)

    Issued on: September 7, 2017.
Brandye L. Hendrickson,
Acting Administrator .
[FR Doc. 2017-19516 Filed 9-13-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-22-P

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