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A Ton of Gas

Want to mess with the mind of a small child? Ask them this simple question: “which is heavier…a ton of feathers, or a ton of bricks?” Invariably the child will say the bricks. The mental illusion exploits a child’s inability to differentiate between volume and density. A ton is a ton, even if it takes one-hundred 53’ semi-trailers full of feathers to equal 2,000 pounds! Effective 01 January 2015, Illinois has enacted a new law giving certain trucks an extra ton of weight for fuel. Read on to learn more!

Soooo…have you heard the economy is Illinois is not so good? Or even close to good? Part of the reason is because business is fleeing Illinois. There are many attributable reasons for this epidemic, but at the end of the day, Illinois is not a business friendly state.

The irony of the new law allowing extra weight for trucks powered by a certain types of fuel is a 180-degree turn for Illinois policy. The purpose behind the law is to be business friendly. Sure, Illinois could scrap all regulations pertaining to vehicle weight and business would love it. Except when roads and bridges collapse, the individual taxpayer foots the bill.

As always, the answer is in the balance. For the first time in a long time, Illinois was not the last state in the union to pass a transportation bill which helps grow business. Illinois joined Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia to allow extra weight for vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). This is green technology which is becoming a serious competitor for typical diesel fuel.

The political divide over alternative fuels and the methods to obtain said fuels is astonishing. The ITEA is not going to enter a debate of the merits of fracking, but one cannot deny that exploratory domestic fuels are helping drive down the cost of OPEC oil. Because diesel has not fallen in price at the same rate of gasoline, alternative fuels like CNG/LPG are even more attractive.

The jury is out on the performance of trucks powered by CNG/LPG. The frontline drivers are usually critical while the back office loves it. Regardless, it is here to stay and will only continue to grow.

In response, Illinois recognized the trend and got out in front by passing Public Act 98-1029. This bill allows any vehicle powered by CNG/LPG technology to operate at an extra 2,000 pounds. Are their critics to this bill? Of course…two of them:

First, the police officer who thinks this law gives those trucks an extra ton of free weight just for being green. Second, the trucker or company owner who does not have CNG/LPG powered trucks and believes he is at a competitive disadvantage because similar carriers can carry more cargo than him.

Both critics are incorrect. Yes, those trucks with CNG/LPG capabilities do get extra weight, but it is not a true bonus. The reality is the technology needed to power these vehicles comes not only with a higher front-end price tag, but heavier weight as well. It’s not a perfect science and depends on the equipment used, but it’s not unreasonable for the extra 2,000 pounds to be eaten up by the very equipment employed.

So how does the weight get added? It’s actually quite simple. If a truck is powered by CNG/LPG technology, it will receive an extra 2,000 pounds of gross weight, axle weight or bridge formula weight. This is not a grace weight. It actually adds to the legal weight of the vehicle, just like the 400 pounds for a functioning auxiliary power unit (APU).

If a CNG/LPG powered garbage truck was entitled to 54,000 pounds gross weight, it now receives 56,000 pounds gross weight. If the maximum tandem axle weight on a shorty-dump was 34,000 pounds, it is now 36,000 pounds. If a series of 4-axles spaced at 22’ on center receives 56,500 pounds, it now receives 58,500 pounds.

And if the vehicle has a functioning APU, add another 400 pounds and then start the grace weight calculation.

However, this law does not give the CNG/LPG powered trucks carte blanche to run an extra ton all the time. There are some limitations: 1.   Interstates – the extra weight does not apply on interstate highways. 2.   Posted elevated structures – if there is an elevated structure posted with an IDOT approved weight limit, the vehicle only receives the posted weights. 3.   Registration – if the truck needs more registration to cover the extra weight, then the owner needs to purchase it. 4.   Overweight permits – the permit applicant needs to take into account the extra weight and buy a permit large enough to cover the weight.

It’s a progressive law for sure. One can only hope it is another brick to help rebuild Illinois.

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