While demands for stronger roads to accommodate Oversize/Overweight (OSOW) trucks have gradually risen, the permit system for these loads has not had a benefit-cost assessment. As more state DOTs report freight prioritization as an agency goal, the importance of economically efficient transportation continues to rise. Trucking is the preferred, and often only, means to transport OSOW loads. In nearly all states, however, permit fees and costs associated with processing OSOW permits are unrelated to the actual costs of providing such services.

A framework for analyzing the existing fee structures and incentives is given in the Aligning Oversize and Overweight Truck (OSOW) Permit Fees and Policies with Agency Costs (CFIRE 03-17) project, led by CFIRE researchers. This project consisted of research into the current OSOW situation, both with respect to industry trends and permit systems, as well as research into the importance of OSOW loads to the economy.

Industrial growth has introduced a rise in OSOW loads: Wisconsin, for example, is quickly becoming a lead in forest product manufacturing, and both the equipment and raw materials are usually hauled by OSOW trucks. These businesses face a wide variety of permit structures in each state, varying in both time to obtain permits, which can take up to 8 weeks, and cost to obtain permits, which can vary from $10 to over $1700.

In the Midwest especially, several large industries including agriculture and energy are dependent on OSOW loads for operation, including the transportation of farm equipment and windmill blades. Ohio is one of the few states to have compared the economic benefits of these industries to the DOT costs incurred by higher maintenance and faster replacement of roads and bridges that support OSOW trucks. Many other states in this analysis, such as Iowa, do not coordinate their fee systems with economic data. Iowa has not raised its permit cost from $10 for more than 30 years.

This project concludes that in most cases permit fees are not balanced with their costs to infrastructure. Further research will place emphasis on determining a per-transaction cost of issuing OSOW permits.

For more information about this project and to read the final report, visit the CFIRE 03-17 project page.

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