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FMCSA Wants to Revise Definition of GCWR

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would revise the definition of gross combination weight rating (GCWR).

FMCSA wants to clarify that a GCWR is the greater of: the GCWR specified by the manufacturer of the power unit, if displayed on the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) certification label required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); or the sum of the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or gross vehicle weights (GVWs) of the power unit and towed unit(s); or any combination thereof, that produces the highest value.

This proposed rule would provide a uniform means for motor carriers, drivers, and enforcement officials to determine whether a driver operating a combination vehicle that does not display a GCWR is subject to the commercial driver's license (CDL) requirements (49 CFR part 383) or the general safety requirements (49 CFR part 390).

This proposed rule also responds to adverse comments from the direct final rule (DFR) published on August 27, 2012 (77 FR 51706). The DFR was initiated in reply to a petition filed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) on February 12, 2008, seeking changes in the definitions of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and gross combination weight rating.

The term commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is defined differently in 49 CFR 383.5 and 390.5, as required by the underlying statutes (the CMVSA and the MCSA, respectively). Both regulatory definitions, however, like their statutory equivalents, depend in part on the GVWR or GVW, whichever is greater, to determine whether a single-unit vehicle is a CMV for purposes of the relevant safety regulations.

Although neither the MCSA nor the CMVSA referred explicitly to combination vehicles, FMCSA says Congress clearly did not intend to exempt this huge population of vehicles from the safety regulations applicable to CMVs. FMCSA therefore adapted the statutory language used for single- unit vehicles to combination vehicles, substituting GCWR or gross combination weight (GCW), whichever is greater, for GVWR or GVW. Because GVW and GCW are used in the regulatory definition of CMV in parts 383 and 390, enforcement officials and motor carriers may determine the applicability of the safety regulations simply by weighing the vehicles. In many situations, however, scales are not readily available. That deficiency increases the importance of correctly determining the GCWR as an alternate means of deciding whether a combination is a CMV.

FMCSA believes drivers, carriers and enforcement officials should not have to search manufacturers' product literature for the GCWR or FMCSA's website or commercial publications for regulatory guidance. Instead, they should be able to rely on codified regulations that are accessible and easy to understand and implement.

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