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Accidentally Banning SUVs
Jamais Cascio, 5 Aug 04

A not-uncommon sight in California are signs in residential areas prohibiting vehicles weighing more than 6,000 pounds from driving on these roads. Heavy vehicles can severely damage streets, and many communities made the logical decision to ban three-ton-plus vehicles from roads simply not made to handle that much weight. After all, anything that big has to be a commercial vehicle with no legitimate reason to be driving down residential avenues, right?

Well, actually...

Slate magazine has an eye-opening article today examining the fact that nearly all of the extra-large SUVs and pickups popular these days actually weigh in at over 6,000 pounds, in part because of laws that give massive tax breaks to people who claim to use commercial-weight "trucks" exclusively for work. The article is richly detailed, and while the tone is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the point is serious: heavyweight vehicles, whether Hummer or delivery truck, damage roads, requiring additional street maintenance that states like California can ill-afford. The solutions are not obvious -- raising the weight limit doesn't make the streets magically more weight-resistant, but enforcing the ban would anger the many owners of superheavy SUVs.

The most interesting aspect of the story is the lack of awareness city officials had that numerous popular SUVs weigh more than is legal for many residential streets. Most claimed that the rules wouldn't be enforced against SUVs, but their reluctance to upset the citizenry may well collide with fiscal temptation. Cities these days are strapped for cash; don't be surprised to see a jump in tickets being issued to Hummers, Excursions, Escalades, and the like driving down the wrong streets...

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Comments

Interesting. Consider that the Governor of California, Arnie, was the first civilian owner of a Hummer...


Posted by: Taran on 5 Aug 04

All the large vehicles I see have their weight posted on their side. Is there a rule that requires vehicles of a certain maximum weight or more to have this painted on the side? If so, could the DOT order recalls to have this painted on the vehicles?


Posted by: Mike Schwab on 6 Aug 04

Actauly the reason they skate past that law is in general everything skates past that law as long as its not grossly over 3 tons.

Also often what is sold as a 3 ton suv isnt 3 tons its just that the LINE is rated as a 3 ton truck line but as no one ever buys all the heavy options most of the line will actauly wind up less then 3 tons.

And finaly the problem with 3 ton trucks was 3 ton trucks with narrow dinky wheels would tear up many roads. An suv has MUCH wider wheels and also tends to run em at lower pressure.


Posted by: wintermane on 6 Aug 04

SUV weight is the stealth issue in recent federal footdragging on the implementation of improved fuel economy standards.

(Current standards were established over 20 years ago, and haven't been changed to account for new auto designs and technology, and more congested driving conditions, never mind increased air pollution and global climate disruption.)

Poorer standards=more gas use, and guess who benefits from from that.

Also, applying stricter standards to heavier vehicles, like SUVs, would make them costlier to manufacture, and if those costs are passed along to the consumer, the hot SUV market might stall.

So instead, current proposals exempt higher weight classes from new fuel economy standards. Auto makers could just add more weight to already massive vehicles to evade stricter standards.

I wrote about this a couple months ago. It can be complex stuff, a policy geek's delight, but I did my best to render it into plain English: http://www.bushgreenwatch.org/mt_archives/000136.php


Posted by: Emily Gertz on 6 Aug 04

Wintermane, the original article asserts that, with a few exceptions, the mega-SUVs are well over the 3 ton point, so a few option packages included or removed aren't going to tip the scales below the limit for most.

And you're undoubtedly correct that, in general, vehicles which aren't grossly overweight tend to be ignored -- but in a cash crunch (as many cities in California are facing), those minor violations become potential sources of additional revenue. I wouldn't be surprised to see areas used as short-cuts by non-resident commuters start to enforce those laws for a welcome financial boost.


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 6 Aug 04

The mega suvs are a result of the hummer which strictly speaking wasnt an suv but a uv;/ It weighed in at over 5 tons. There are some 4 ton suvs and some 5 ton ones.

Most 3 ton or so suvs are in fact not 3 ton but are instead passed up to a bit over 3 ton via gimmickry and flim flam to reach the magic 3 ton level.

As for cities going after suvs they might but its not likely as they dont even bother to go after 18 wheelers AND rich people who happen to own suvs are the most likely people to MOVE and take thier tax base with them over such issues.


Posted by: wintermane on 6 Aug 04

Oh I fergot anouther prime issue... most rich people likely live like I do in an area where there are NO weight limited streets. Most modern housing areas use much sturdier roadbeds and can handle anything.


Posted by: wintermane on 6 Aug 04

I agree that most cities probably aren't going to go after their own residents, but what strikes me as somewhat more likely is the scenario I mentioned a few comments back: towns where residential streets are used as short-cuts by non-resident commuters start going after those drivers for overweight vehicle violations (on top of speed traps, etc.).


Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 6 Aug 04

Depends entirely on how large the fine is realy. The fact they havnt been upholding this even in common 18 wheeel issues means likely its a dinky fine.


Posted by: wintermane on 7 Aug 04



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