Commercial drivers must adhere to a wide variety of regulations and restrictions that traditional drivers rarely, if ever, have to think about. Among them are weight restrictions for the vehicle and loads.
CDL holders often push their loads to the limit in an effort to maximize efficiency and the number of deliveries they can make on each trip. This makes good business sense at first glance but can lead to trouble if it results in exceeding weight restrictions. Those who weigh in overweight can face serious fines in New Jersey, as well as other collateral consequences. The exact fine depends on the size and type of the truck, the amount the truck is overweight, and other factors.
What Are the Penalties for Overweight Violations in NJ?
New Jersey CDL tickets for overweight violations only include a fine—there are no points and no risk of jail time. However, the fines can be quite substantial so it is often worth it to have an attorney challenge the ticket.
Overweight as to Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). N.J.S.A. 39:3-20 states that for the first 1,000 pounds overweight, the driver can be fined $500. The fine increases by $100 for each additional 1,000 pounds. For example, a vehicle with a weight limit of 80,000 pounds that weighs in at 90,000 pounds will face a $1,400 fine.
Overweight on the Axles. N.J.S.A. 39:3-84.3 sets the fine at 2 cents per pound overweight when the excess load is less than 10,000 pounds, and 3 cents per pound for weight in excess of 10,000 pounds or more. Again, using the above 90,000-pound vehicle example, the driver would be fined $200.
Overweight on Bridges. Even if the vehicle is not overweight for its size, a driver can still be fined if he/she passes over a bridge with a weight limit below the weight of the vehicle. N.J.S.A. 39:4-76 authorizes penalties of 2 cents per pound when the weight excess is less than 10,000 pounds or 3 cents per pound for weight excesses of 10,000 pounds or more.
Overweight/Oversize Permit Violations. In some cases, a CDL holder can apply for a permit to carry an overweight or oversized load. There are a variety of different permits, depending on the size, weight, and type of load to be carried. Sometimes a permit is valid for one day; other times it may be valid for up to 30 days.
Receiving a special permit requires complying with certain additional safety requirements and restrictions, including limitations on the time of day and weather conditions in which one can travel. Violating these rules can result in fines ranging from $100 to up to $1,000 per offense.
Other Penalties for Overweight Trucks. In addition to the fine, a driver may be charged for the cost of repairing a road or bridge. A driver with a divisible load can also be held in a safe place until enough cargo can be unloaded to comply with the weight limits of the vehicle or road.
Arguably, the most significant penalty is having the ticket appear on one’s driving record. A potential employer will see overweight tickets on one’s driving record and could consider the driver a liability. That’s why every driver must make an effort to challenge any overweight tickets.
Beating a CDL Overweight Ticket
Overweight tickets are not easy to beat for the average driver. When it comes to violating road weight limits, one possible defense is to provide evidence that the weight limit was not clearly posted and/or that an alternate route was not immediately available. An attorney can assess the circumstances of the ticket to determine if this or another strategy will have the best chance of beating the ticket.
In many cases, especially those involving large fines, the wisest course may be to negotiate the ticket down to a lower fine or possibly a lesser offense.
Why Hire an Attorney for Overweight Tickets?
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that overweight tickets are just a matter of fines, even if they can be expensive. Driving with excess weight is a risk—a truck that is overloaded can be harder to stop in an emergency, which increases the chances of a serious accident. That means a CDL holder who pays an overweight ticket has admitted to driving unsafely. This can impact one’s insurance rates, as well as put his/her employment at risk.
Keep in mind that every time a CDL holder is convicted of a violation, it increases the odds of being flagged for an inspection later on. These inspections can potentially uncover other violations, which not only add more fines but also more insurance increases and more risk to employment.
An attorney can help prevent or mitigate those consequences. The right attorney can evaluate the circumstances to determine if the ticket can be dismissed, negotiated to a lower fine and/or offense, or if it should be taken to trial.
Too many people make the mistake of assuming that they can beat a ticket themselves. The fact is, standing before a judge and arguing one’s case is an intimidating endeavor. While it is important to tell the truth, the way the truth is presented makes all the difference in whether or not it will convince a judge that one is innocent. That’s a skill an attorney brings to the table.
Out-of-State Drivers and NJ Overweight Tickets
Consequences for an overweight violation vary from state to state. Regardless of which state issued the CDL, a commercial driver must face the consequences as set out by the state where the violation occurred. In other words, a driver licensed in Florida who is ticketed for being overweight in New Jersey will pay the New Jersey fine.
In addition, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) records keep track of violations from every state, which leaves little chance the ticket will go unnoticed. Even one’s state driving record will show the violation, thanks to the Driver’s License Compact, an interstate agreement that allows states to share driver information with each other.
Out-of-state drivers should be aware that New Jersey Municipal Court is strict with its policy of requiring a driver to appear in person for any traffic offense. This can be a huge burden, as it can mean a significant amount of time away from work. An attorney can help by filing a motion to appear on the driver’s behalf. If accepted, the driver may not have to return to New Jersey to challenge the ticket—the attorney can handle the matter while the driver continues to work.
Keep in mind that any time a traffic violation occurs, whether it is an overweight ticket or a speeding ticket, the CDL holder will need an attorney who is licensed in the state that issued the ticket. As such, overweight tickets issued in New Jersey must be fought in New Jersey Municipal Court by an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the weight limits for commercial vehicles?
Federal weight limits for trucks are as follows:
Single Axle: 22,400 pounds
Tandem Axle Group: 34,000 pounds
Two or More Axle Maximum Weight: 80,000 pounds
Class 7 Dump Truck: 61,500 pounds
38 ft 4-Axle Trailer: 67,500 pounds
- Can you go to jail for an overweight ticket?
New Jersey does not consider being overweight a criminal offense, although some other states do.
- Do you get CSA points for being overweight?
Receiving an overweight violation does not affect one’s CSA score, but it is still recorded on one’s driving history and can negatively affect a commercial driver in many ways.
- How long do overweight tickets stay on your record?
In New Jersey, all driving records are permanent. That means all offenses are recorded no matter how old they are. Employers rarely pull a person’s full driving record (most pull about 7 years), but that doesn’t mean they can’t, or won’t look further back.
- Do police need probable cause to stop a vehicle and weigh it?
No. Police may stop a commercial vehicle anywhere in the state of New Jersey to conduct a weight inspection.
Can a commercial vehicle be impounded if it is overweight?
Police may detain and in some cases impound a vehicle until the excess weight is removed.
Are there ways to legally carry overweight loads?
Commercial drivers can apply for a special permit to carry oversized or overweight loads. However, these are usually limited to non-divisible loads, meaning it is a single item that cannot be divided into smaller loads.
Who Should You Contact?
If you received an overweight ticket or are being charged with any CDL offense in New Jersey, contact Rosenblum Law today. Our team of skilled traffic ticket attorneys will fight to keep you on the road and protect your livelihood. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.