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AGO 1955 No. 124 - August 03, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- LOGGING TRUCKS ‑- EXCESS WEIGHT FEES

A combination of vehicles used in hauling logs which is licensed for the maximum amount permitted by law (68,000 pounds) is not permitted any variation of gross weight in excess of that amount unless the operator has been issued a special permit for such variation.

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                                                                  August 3, 1955

Honorable W. R. Cole
Prosecuting Attorney
Kittitas County
County Court House
Ellensburg, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 124

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of July 12, 1955, previously acknowledged, you have asked the opinion of this office on a question which we have framed as follows:

            In computing the penalties for excess weight provided by RCW 46.44.080 (1953 Supp.) applicable to violations of RCW 46.44.047 (1953 Supp.) by logging trucks, is there an allowable variation of 6,800 pounds in excess of the maximum legal gross weight of 68,000 pounds for which a combination of vehicles may be, and is licensed, before the excess weight fees attach?

            Or, in other words, is a combination of vehicles employed in hauling logs which is licensed for the maximum amount permitted by law (68,000 lbs.) allowed a variation of 6,800 pounds before assessment of the poundage fee for excess weights provided by RCW 46.44.048 (1953 Supp.).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Our answer is in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            You advise that a log truck operator, licensed to the maximum of 68,000 pounds, was arrested for operating in excess of this maximum.  In weighing the load of logs, the State Patrol took the maximum licensed weight of 68,000 pounds and subtracted the same from the gross weight carried in computing the excess weight fees applicable.  It is claimed on behalf of the operator that he is permitted by RCW 46.44.047 (1953 Supp.) to exceed by 6,800 pounds the maximum legal gross weight for which he is licensed before the excess weight fees are computed.  In other words, it is contended that in this situation a log truck operator should have 74,800 pounds deducted from the gross weight he was carrying before assessment of the excess weight fees under RCW 46.44.048 (1953 Supp.).

            The pertinent statutory provisions, in so far as applicable here, are as follows:

            RCW 46.44.047 (1953 Supp.)

            "In addition to the limitations of RCW 46.44.040, 46.44.042 and 46.44.044, a three‑axle truck tractor and a two-axle pole trailer combination engaged in the operation of hauling logs, shall have an allowable variation in wheelbase length * * * and the maximum gross weight of the combination of vehicles may exceed by not more than six thousand eight hundred pounds the maximum legal gross weight of the combination of vehicles, when fully licensed as permitted by law, being sixty-eight thousand pounds.  * * *"

            If this statutory provision had stopped here there might be some merit to the operator's contention.  But the statute continues with:

            "Such additional allowances shall be permitted by a special permit to be issued by the director of highways under such rules, regulations, terms and  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] conditions prescribed by the state highway commission.  The fee for such special permit shall be fifty dollars for a twelve month period * * *  A copy of such special permit covering the vehicle involved shall be carried in the cab of the vehicle at all times.  * * * Each special permit shall be assigned to a specific vehicle and shall not be transferable.  For the purpose of determining gross weight the actual scale weight taken by the officer shall beprima facie evidence of such total gross weight.  In the event the gross weight is in excess of the weight permitted by law the officer may, within his discretion, permit the operator to proceed with his vehicles in combination." (Emphasis supplied)

            The discretion granted the officer is as to whether the operator shall be permitted to continue with his load, or be required "to reduce the gross weight of the vehicle to the limit permitted under this chapter."  RCW 46.44.100.

            Payments for excess weights are provided by RCW 46.44.048 (1953 supp.) as follows:

            "In addition to any penalty incurred under the provisions of this title, the owner or operator of any motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles,as payment for excess weights, over and above those set forth in RCW 46.44.046 and 46.44.047, shall pay two cents per pound for each pound of excess weight up to five thousand pounds; if such excess weight is five thousand pounds and not in excess of ten thousand pounds, the rate per pound shall be three cents per pound for each pound of excess weight; and if the excess weight is ten thousand pounds or over the rate shall be four cents per pound for each pound of such excess weight."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In an opinion rendered December 18, 1952, to the prosecuting attorney of Skagit county (AGO 51-53 No. 444) we concluded "that  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] the poundage for which the vehicle was licensed, rather than the maximum poundage which the vehicle was designed to carry or could be licensed under the law, should be used in determining 'excess weight' as provided in chapter 46.44 RCW" in applying the excess weight fees provided by RCW 46.44.048 (1953 Supp.).

            The maximum weight for which the log truck combination herein involved was licensed was 68,000 pounds.  There is no indication that a special permit for the "allowable variation" of 6,800 pounds had been obtained and was applicable to the specific vehicle involved.  Consequently, in the absence of a showing that a special permit had been issued, we must assume that the maximum weight for which the combination involved here was licensed was 68,000 pounds.

            We believe that the legislature intended to limit the maximum gross weight of a combination of vehicles of the kind in question to 68,000 pounds, but being cognizant of the variations that might be involved in the weight of various loads of logs of the same quantity and species, made provisions whereby the owner of such vehicle could safeguard himself against such a variation by obtaining a special permit therefor.  We recognized the statutory provision for tolerance in an opinion dated October 23, 1953, to the state highway commission (AGO 53-55 No. 151).  In the absence of such a permit the statutory maximum applies together with the fees applicable to weights in excess of the legal maximum.

            Consequently, we conclude that in the absence of the special permit provided by RCW 46.44.047 (1953 Supp.), the fees for excess weight provided by RCW 46.44.048 (1953 Supp.) apply to the weight of the combination of vehicles in excess of 68,000 pounds, the maximum gross weight for which it was licensed.

            Copies of the opinions above referred to are enclosed for your information.  We trust that the foregoing analysis will prove helpful to you in connection with the question presented.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

MITCHELL DOUMIT
Assistant Attorney General

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