MOTOR VEHICLES, EXCESS POUNDAGE, DETERMINATION OF.
The poundage over that for which the vehicle was licensed, rather than the poundage over the maximum for which the vehicle was designed or could be licensed under the law, determines excess weight as provided in RCW 46.44.
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December 18, 1952
Honorable Reuben C. Youngquist Prosecuting Attorney Skagit County Mount Vernon, Washington Cite as: AGO 51-53 No. 444
Attention: George E. McIntosh
Acknowledgment is made of the receipt of your request for an opinion of this office on the following question which you pose in relation to RCW 46.44.048:
"As a basis for computing 'excess weight' which figure should be used‑-the weight for which the vehicle is actually licensed, or the maximum weight for which the vehicle in question could be licensed for under existing statutes?"
Our conclusion is that in relation to whether a motor vehicle has been overloaded the poundage for which the vehicle was licensed, rather than the maximum weight for which it was designed or could be licensed under the law, shall be used in determining excess weight as provided in RCW chapter 46.44.
RCW 46.44.048 provides in part 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; * * *
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
"It is intended by this section to provide a method of compensation for the state for any use of the highways beyond the designed capacity thereof. * * *"
"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 RCW 46.44.046 and 46.44.047 of the vehicle or of the vehicles in combination.
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It is noted that the section speaks of the designed capacity of the vehicle, but "excess weight" is defined to be poundage in excess of the maximum licensed gross weight with the minor exceptions contained in the two cited sections of the act. A study of the chapter dealing with size, weight and load, namely chapter 46.44 RCW, reveals that the physical characteristics of the individual vehicle determine the maximum gross weight for which it may be licensed but there is no provision in licensing law requiring that a vehicle be licensed for the full weight it is capable of carrying, either as determined by its design or by the various licensing provisions. In fact, under RCW 46.16.070 the maximum gross weight for licensing purposes is established by the owner, with certain exceptions not important here; see also RCW 46.16.110 to the same effect. Under RCW 46.16.140 the other acts cited are recognized and in case the vehicle is loaded beyond the shown gross weight when licensed the excess determines the new gross weight and additional licensing is required in accordance with the additional weight found to have been placed on the vehicle.
Although no formal opinion has been issued before on this question it has been the interpretation given to the various state officials interested in the problem that a motor vehicle may be licensed for a gross weight less than its design would allow and in view of the various sections cited of the motor vehicle laws dealing with weight and licensing, it is our view that RCW 46.44.048 shall be interpreted with these laws, and excess weight is the poundage not over the maximum allowed by the design of the vehicle, but that which was over the weight determined by the application for licensing which was declared by the owners to be the maximum which would be placed thereon during the licensing period for which the application was made.
Accordingly, you are advised that our opinion is that 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, shall be used in determining "excess weight" as provided in chapter 46.44 RCW.