CONCORD -- Under new rules the council has adopted, commercial vehicles weighing up to five tons will be able to use all city streets rather than the more restrictive truck route network.
Since 1968, commercial vehicles exceeding three tons had to use designated truck routes and were prohibited from using all other city streets unless doing so was necessary to reach a destination to load or unload cargo. The weight limits were put in place to prevent large trucks from rumbling through residential neighborhoods.
"In establishing truck routes we found that under our current ordinance that many of the vehicles we would not regard as heavy trucks were excluded from using certain streets," Councilman Dan Helix said during discussion of the change last month.
"What we said was, we need to correct that. What we had in mind was the five-ton trucks, not the three-ton trucks."
Since 2002, the Department of Motor Vehicles has registered vans, heavy trucks and commercial trucks based on the vehicle's weight when it's empty of cargo and passengers; the declared gross vehicle weight -- the weight of the vehicle, plus passengers, the heaviest load it can carry and optional accessories; or the declared combined gross vehicle weight -- the weight of the empty vehicle, its trailer and heaviest possible load.
If the declared weight of the vehicle exceeds five tons the owner must register it as a commercial vehicle, pay an additional fee and affix a second registration sticker and weight decal.
Lightweight trucks and vans that weigh five tons or less aren't subject to the extra registration fee because they are not expected to cause significant damage to streets or the environment, according to Ray Kuzbari, transportation manager.
Due to the immense popularity of sport utility vehicles and heavy-duty pickups that are often used as personal vehicles although they have commercial capabilities, the city's weight limit was outdated, Kuzbari said.
"The five-ton weight limit used by the DMV represents a more realistic benchmark than the three-ton limit imposed by the city on local streets," he added.
Under state law, a pickup truck is considered a commercial vehicle only if it weighs more than four tons when empty and has a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight of 5.75 tons or more. These weight limits allow private owners of large pickup trucks souped up with professional accessories or options to avoid paying the additional registration fee and displaying the weight decal. The city's five-ton weight limit applies only to registered commercial vehicles.
"The mayor, having a larger pickup truck, brought it to our attention," Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister said. "Our ordinance was out of step with where the state law had gone on this. The state law had adjusted its standards and we needed to address ours so that it's consistent."
In April, the council voted to ban trucks from using Farm Bureau Road, which had been designated a truck route in 1968. At the time of the vote, Farm Bureau Road was the only truck route that ran primarily through a residential neighborhood.
Banning trucks from Farm Bureau Road would improve the quality of life in the neighborhood and safety around the elementary school without reducing access to businesses or the highways, staff concluded.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.