RD680 - Legislative Response to Chapters 401 and 568 of the 2019 Acts of Assembly (HB 2800 and SB 1775)
Chapters 401 and 568 of the 2019 Virginia Acts of Assembly direct the Commissioner of Highways to report annually to the Governor, the General Assembly and the Commonwealth Transportation Board certain data regarding the implications of overweight trucks on the frequency and severity of crashes, maintenance and infrastructure needs, and vehicle miles traveled. Specifically, at a minimum, the report shall include:
1. Data regarding the frequency and severity of incidents and crashes involving overweight trucks compared to other trucks,
2. Maintenance and infrastructure needs of routes frequently used by overweight trucks and the comparison of needs to similar routes not frequented by such trucks, and
3. Estimated number of additional vehicle miles that would be necessary if such vehicles were not permitted to carry overweight loads.
In submitting the report, the Commissioner shall indicate if additional data is needed to provide further reports and, if so, include a proposal for additional data collection. The Acts do not require the Commissioner to prospectively gather additional data not already being collected by any transportation agency. This report is an update of the 2019 report and represents the second and final report produced in response to Chapters 401 and 568.
In response to this legislation, multiple meetings were held with representatives of several VDOT Divisions, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the Virginia Port Authority, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the Virginia State Police. By way of these meetings, both the data necessary to address the three questions posed in the legislation and the availability of those data were examined.
Frequency and Severity of Incidents Involving Overweight Trucks
Based on the information that is currently collected by DMV and VSP, it is not possible to directly measure either the frequency or severity of incidents (crashes) involving overweight trucks. In order to compare the frequency and severity of incidents and crashes involving overweight trucks and trucks weighing no more than 80,000 pounds, specific data on the weights of all trucks involved in crashes and incidents needs to be accurately recorded. Amended methods for properly determining and recording weights of trucks involved in crashes could potentially be instituted.
Maintenance and Infrastructure Needs for Overweight Truck Routes
It is difficult to infer roadway and bridge maintenance requirements associated with the use of overweight trucks, as there is currently insufficient data on the number and weight of trucks using most roadways. Accurate truck weights and counts by weight for specific routes are needed to perform a comparison of infrastructure maintenance needs for routes carrying higher numbers of heavy vehicles versus those that are carrying fewer such vehicles. Additional weight and truck count data derived from additional weigh- in-motion (WIM) sites would increase the collection of the information needed to better determine the correlation between maintenance needs and truck weight.
Additional Vehicle Miles of Truck Travel That Would Result without Overweight Trucks
No single data set or combination of data that was identified as being collected by DMV, VPA, DRPT, VSP, or VDOT or discussed among the study members was found to be sufficient in estimating the number of additional vehicle miles that would be necessary to offset the elimination of overweight vehicles currently allowed on Virginia’s roadways. Estimating the additional vehicle miles that would be necessary without overweight loads is likely the most difficult of the three questions addressed in this study. This is due primarily because most, if not all of the data required to make these estimations would require cooperation of industry.
After thorough examination of the available data, it was determined that insufficient data currently exists to:
• compare the frequency and severity of crashes involving overweight trucks compared to other trucks,
• compare the maintenance needs of routes frequently used by overweight trucks as compared to routes not frequented by such trucks,
• estimate the number of additional vehicle miles that would be necessary if such vehicles were not permitted to carry overweight loads.
However, below are several options identified through this study that would serve to provide or potentially improve the availability of pertinent data:
• Existing WIM data and single trip hauling permit information could be used to make some very limited assumptions about the impacts of overweight trucks on crashes, maintenance, and vehicle miles traveled.
To begin, a single corridor could be identified with sufficient length to capture maintenance and crash impacts, likely 25-50 miles.
• The modification of the Commonwealth of Virginia – Department of Motor Vehicles Police Crash Report form and the increased deployment of DMV’s mobile scales would allow for increased collection of the weights of trucks involved in some crashes.
• Additional WIM data could be collected by way of some combination of additional portable and permanent sites. Input from a variety of stakeholders would be needed to determine where these additional sites should be located.
If deemed appropriate, the following actions could be taken to provide limited input to the questions raised by Chapters 401 and 568 of the 2019 Virginia Acts of Assembly:
• Identify a roadway segment believed to have trucks operating above the current legal limit by blanket permit, exemption, or single trip permit that is of sufficient length to capture both maintenance and safety impacts, likely 25-50 miles.
• Install WIM stations at every interchange and in every lane to capture the weight characteristics of the traffic stream.
• Include license plate capture capability that is linked to the WIM system to allow weights to be associated with specific vehicles.
• Maintain database of weight/license plate data for a minimum of 48-hours for post-crash identification.
• Collect additional pavement condition data within the roadway segment. If the number of overweight vehicles varies over the length of the segment, some limited information on the impact of those vehicles on maintenance needs could be estimated. If the number of overweight vehicles is consistent across the segment, a second roadway segment or distinct roadway with different fleet composition will be required to estimate maintenance impacts.
Two additional activities could also help to inform this effort.
• A Freight Advisory Committee continues to be under development. The committee, comprising representatives of government agencies and industry, could be engaged to provide feedback on other data collection opportunities.
• Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles continues in its efforts to procure a new online overdimensional truck permitting system. That system could provide additional data on specific routes and weights.