BQE overweight truck bill signed into law

December 27, 2021 Editorial Staff
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Weigh-in-motion tech to deter trucks with weights above legal limit

A new law, signed on Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, will authorize a pilot program along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway allowing for the installation of state-of-the-art, weigh-in-motion technology to issue violations electronically when trucks exceed the existing legal weight limits.

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“This legislation is vital to extending the useful life of the BQE, and ensuring the safety of all drivers and passengers of vehicles that use this roadway,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who cosponsored the legislation with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “The deployment of weigh-in-motion technology will effectively deter trucking companies from engaging in destructive and unsafe behavior, and is likely to become a standard enforcement tool.

The new state law authorizes automated enforcement on the Brooklyn portion of the BQE, enabling expanded enforcement efforts 24/7. Enforcement would utilize weigh-in-motion systems paired with cameras, similar to New York City’s successful automated school speed zone and red light camera programs.

State Sen. Brian Kavanagh. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
State Sen. Brian Kavanagh. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Violations would carry the same or a lower penalty than the often-hefty penalties issued by police officers during in-person enforcement; and only trucks overweight by at least 10 percent would be issued a fine.

Installing the sensors throughout the corridor will mean that trucks can’t avoid enforcement by exiting to local streets and then quickly reentering just beyond the sensors, ensuring that this approach is unlikely to divert overweight trucks to other routes through area neighborhoods.

Brooklyn’s Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Photo by Susannah Pasquantonio

“Creating 21st-century infrastructure is critical and the BQE is a linchpin of the NY Metropolitan area’s transportation network and the region’s economy. … Removing overweight trucks from the BQE will extend its lifetime and allow us time to envision a long-term solution for the entire BQE corridor that reduces reliance on polluting freight trucks and prioritizes climate justice,” Simon said Simon.

Higher live loads from overweight trucks cause greater stress on the structure, shorten its lifespan, decrease reliability, and reduce safety. Although the structure has an 80,000-pound limit for trucks, data collected at the request of the panel between Oct. 16, 2019, and Jan. 19, 2020, showed that on the Queens-bound roadway, 11.1 percent of trucks exceeded 80,000 pounds and 27 percent exceeded the Federal Bridge Formula, which limits the weight-to-length ratio of vehicles crossing a bridge.

In addition to damaging roads and other infrastructure, overweight trucks are dangerous because they may have difficulty braking and steering. Excess weight can cause the driver to lose control, and greater weight means greater momentum and more forceful crashes. Excess weight further increases carbon emissions, greatly increasing the climate impact of overweight trucks.

“Overweight and off-route trucks are a menace — they destroy our infrastructure, damage the quality of life in our neighborhoods and contribute to climate change,” said NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman. “This is but one of many areas in which the use of automated enforcement techniques can help keep the streets and highways of New York safe for all who use them.”

Hank Gutman. Eagle file photo

In 2019, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio convened a panel of experts to review the City’s planned reconstruction of the BQE from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street in Brooklyn. The findings of their report lead to the indisputable conclusion that this corridor along the roadway is in urgent need of repair, and that illegally overweight trucks were contributing significantly to the structure’s deterioration.

Last year, the city announced new restrictions and bigger fines for overweight trucks, but conventional enforcement is virtually impossible on this narrow, crowded roadway.

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