California Transit Association

Advocacy

Bus Axle Weights

The Challenge

In 2011, the conflict between California’s decades-old bus axle weight limit, and more recent laws and regulations that inadvertently escalated the weight of transit buses, was brought to the fore when local law enforcement agencies began to cite transit buses for exceeding the axle weight limit.

In 2015, following several attempts at permanently amending California law to adjust for the impact that these more recent laws and regulation have had on the weight of transit buses, Governor Brown signed into law AB 1250 (Bloom) [Chapter 484, Statutes of 2015], an Association-sponsored bill that provides long-term relief from California’s bus axle weight limit.

Association Action

Since 2011, the Association has taken a leadership position in addressing the bus axle weight limit issue, rallying stakeholders and hosting ideation sessions to identify a viable long-term solution. In 2012 and 2014, the Association, with support from various stakeholders, sponsored AB 1706 (Eng) [Chapter 771, Statutes of 2012] and AB 1720 (Bloom) [Chapter 263, Statutes of 2014], to permanently adjust for the impact that certain laws and regulation have had on the weight of transit buses in California.  However, due to a lack of consensus among stakeholders, these bills ended up providing only temporary relief from California’s bus axle weight limit.

In 2015, the Association renewed negotiations with the impacted stakeholders that helped craft AB 1706 (Eng) and AB 1720 (Bloom) to develop AB 1250 (Bloom) [Chapter 484, Statutes of 2015].  As enacted, AB 1250 (Bloom) clarifies that transit buses procured pursuant to a solicitation issued before January 1, 2016 – or, during option periods in multi-year contracts not exceeding five years, or January 1, 2021, whichever is earlier – are exempt from the 20,500 lbs. per axle weight limit.  

Furthermore, the bill establishes more realistic and statutorily-enforceable descending schedules of allowable bus axle weights for standard transit buses and articulated and zero-emission transit buses (see Table 1 and Table 2 below), which implicitly acknowledge that transit buses in operation today may not always comply with the state’s old bus axle weight limit, and which encourage bus suppliers and public transit operators to design, manufacture and ultimately put into operation increasingly lighter transit buses.

TABLE 1
SCHEDULE OF ALLOWABLE WEIGHT ON ANY ONE AXLE
FOR STANDARD TRANSIT BUSES
Weight Limit Compliance Deadline (For Specification of Such Buses in Procurement Solicitations Issued)
23,000 lbs Between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2018
22,000 lbs On or after January 1, 2019

 

TABLE 2
SCHEDULE OF ALLOWABLE WEIGHT ON ANY ONE AXLE
FOR ARTICULATED TRANSIT BUSES and/or ZERO-EMISSION TRANSIT BUSES
Weight Limit Compliance Deadline (For Specification of Such Buses in Procurement Solicitations Issued)
25,000 lbs Between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017
24,000 lbs Between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019
23,000 lbs Between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021
22,000 lbs On or after January 1, 2022

AB 1250 (Bloom) also converts the measurement and enforcement of bus axle weights (described in Table 1 and Table 2 above) to curb weight (from today’s gross weight), implicitly acknowledging that a transit bus’s weight changes throughout the day with ridership, and thus creating an objective measure for the maximum weight of any transit bus that “rolls off the factory floor.” This shift will also underscore that the role of each transit operator is to maximize ridership while operating within prescribed federal, state and local safety parameters.

Background

Prior to the enactment of AB 1250 (Bloom) [Chapter 484, Statutes of 2015], California law generally prohibited a transit operator from procuring a transit bus of a gross weight on any one axle in excess of 20,500 lbs. This bus axle weight limit was established in 1976 to reduce damage to roadways, but came into conflict with subsequent laws and regulations intended to further societal goals, like improving air quality and enhancing mobility for qualified persons under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which have increasingly compelled heavier transit buses that often exceed the 20,500 lbs. axle weight limit.

AB 1706 (Eng) [Chapter 771, Statutes of 2012] and AB 1720 (Bloom) [Chapter 263, Statutes of 2014], which were enacted in 2012 and 2014, respectively, temporarily exempted from the 20,500 lbs. axle weight limit a transit operator that procured a new bus that is of the same or lesser weight than the bus it was replacing, or if it incorporated a new fleet class into its inventory, and its governing board made certain findings and sent notice to all affected local governments. Without further legislative action, this exemption was set to expire on January 1, 2016.