Vehicle Limitations – NJ

New Jersey was first state in the country to ban large tractor-trailers from its state roads and highways. The restriction, went into effect in July 1999, confined large trucks (more than 102 inches wide) that were not doing business in the state to interstate highways and the National Network, a system of major highways and connector roads.

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman issued the ban through an emergency order in July 1999, announcing that "Large trucks that are not doing business in New Jersey have no business using local roads in New Jersey." The order was followed by permanent regulations in September, and on January 13, 2000, she signed companion legislation that lays out the penalties for truckers found breaking the new rules: $400 for a first offense, $700 for a second infraction and then $1,000 for every violation afterward.

The ban followed years of complaints from residents and local officials that out-of-state truckers using local roads as shortcuts were a safety hazard and a noisy nuisance. Several accidents on country roads involving collisions with trucks stoked the public’s anger.

Big-rig traffic is particularly heavy in New Jersey due to its status as a corridor between large East Coast cities. Each day about 135,000 large semis pass through New Jersey. In recent years, many truckers started taking shortcuts between major highways and veering off the New Jersey Turnpike to avoid tolls. The ban reduced truck traffic by as much as 30 percent on some roads.

However, shippers worried that other states would follow New Jersey’s lead. So the American Trucking Association and U.S. Xpress filed suit in U.S. District Court to overturn the ban, charging that it impedes interstate commerce by forcing some truckers "to deviate from more direct routes, which lengthens travel time and can be more expensive." The association’s lawsuit also claimed that the restriction violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause because it treats trucks based in New Jersey differently from those based outside the state.

JohnDourgarian, a spokesman for the New Jersey Transportation Department, said the state was well within its rights to impose the ban, "The U.S. Department of Transportation advised us last summer that the D.O.T. had the authority to regulate truck traffic on non-national highways," he said. We feel quite strongly that the law does not impact interstate commerce because we’re providing a good system of roads for truckers to use."

However, on February 21, 2006, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals found New Jersey’s large truck routing regulations unconstitutional and NJDOT has repealed these rules and replaced them with regulations that re-established the truck routing restrictions that were in place before 1999. These regulations were adopted on June 22, 2006.

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