MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- EXCESS WEIGHT ‑- APPLICATION TO VEHICLES IN COMBINATION
The excess weight provisions of chapter 269, Laws of 1951, are applicable to a vehicle within a combination of vehicles, or when outside a combination of vehicles.
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October 2, 1951
Honorable James A. Pryde, Chief
Washington State Patrol
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 51-53 No. 143
This is to acknowledge your letter of September 25, 1951 in which you requested an opinion relative to the excess weight provisions of chapter 269, Laws of 1951.
We take the liberty of phrasing your inquiry as follows:
Are the excess weight provisions of section 32, chapter 269, Laws of 1951 applicable when one vehicle of a combination of vehicles exceeds the legal limit, although the combined weight of the combination of vehicles does not exceed the legal limit?
Our conclusion may be stated in the affirmative.
That portion of section 32, chapter 269, Laws of 1951 that defines "excess weight" and to what it applies, provides as follows:
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"For the purposes of this section 'excess weight' shall mean that poundage in excess of the maximum licensed gross weight plus the weights allowed by sections 30 and 31 of the vehicle or of the vehicles in combination.
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It is to be noted that instead of using the phrase "combination of vehicles" as used in other sections of chapter 269, the above quoted portion of section 32 employs the phrase "vehicles in combination." Whether this departure from the terminology used elsewhere in chapter 269 was intended to have any particular significance, is unknown to us. The phrase "combination of vehicles" does, however, have an established meaning by statutory definition. Rem. Supp. 1943, section 6312-1 (g) provides:
"'Combination of Vehicles.' Every combination of motor vehicle and trailer or motor vehicle and semi-trailer the principal use of which is the transportation of commodities, merchandise, produce, freight or animals."
For the purposes of this opinion, we shall assume, without deciding, that the phrase "vehicles in combination" means what Rem. Supp. 1943, section 6312-1 (g) says that "combination of vehicles" means. The above definition is only descriptive of the arrangement and type of vehicles that constitute a combination. Vehicles within a combination are still vehicles. This definition had been in vogue eight years before the enactment of chapter 269, and thus, we feel that the quoted portion of section 32 above must be construed with reference to this established definition.
Accordingly, we feel that the excess weight payments of section 32 apply to any vehicle that is over the legal limit, whether within, or without, a combination. In our view, any other interpretation would authorize and encourage loading practices in violation of the spirit and the purpose of chapter 269.
To conclude that a vehicle is not subject to excess weight payments, although over the legal limit, when it is within a combination, but is subject to such payments when not within a combination, is inconsistent, and is not, to our way of thinking, the intention of section 32.
Very truly yours,
ROBERT L. SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General