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Public Info Requested for Auto Transporter Regulations and Definition Change by the DOT


Everyone can agree that the trucking industry is one of the most heavily regulated in the U.S., apparently even including the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA.) The FHWA is currently seeking public comments on a regulatory revision that would redefine what constitutes an “automobile transporter” in order to reduce the burden of regulations as they apply to motor carriers that ship automobile cargo.

Currently, big rigs that transport automobiles are defined as “specialized equipment designed and used for the transport of cars.” In order to fit the definition, the rig must be able to carry the auto cargo on the truck tractor itself. High-mount tractor-trailers that regularly haul auto cargo but do not haul cars on the power unit are currently not classified as “automobile transporters.”

The FHWA wants to loosen the definition of an automobile transporter to include high-mount trailers that are connected to a non-cargo carrying tractor. The agency wants to make this change without action from Congress.

In order to make this change, the FHWA needs input from the public on the implications of the change.

The agency says that expanding the definition of what constitutes an “auto hauler” would eliminate standard length restrictions for these types of trucks, allowing them to transport a higher number of vehicles as well as operate more efficiently.

Including high-mount trailers/non-cargo carrying tractors into the definition of an auto hauler would mean that no state would be able to impose a length limitation of less than 65 feet, a front overhang of less than 3 feet or a rear overhang of less than 4 feet.

FHWA is asking commenters to answer the following questions in their comments:

  • How will the inclusion of high-mount tractor-trailers in the definition impact the flow of interstate commerce?
  • Are there safety issues with high-mount tractor-trailers as it relates to the operation of these vehicle configurations?
  • What are implementation implications, such as roadside enforcement and changes to state laws?
  • What state laws are currently in place regarding high-mount tractor-trailers?
  • Are there states that allow the high-mount tractor-trailers to operate under the same length provisions as traditional automobile transport?
  • Is there any other information relating to safety, vehicle productivity or infrastructure preservation relevant to these questions?


Comments can be made here using an online portal through Monday, Oct. 16.

What do you think? Should the FHWA include high-mount trailers/non-cargo carrying tractors into the definition of an auto transporter?

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Kyle Mitchell
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