I interviewed Paul Jakubicek who discussed New Book on Understanding Truck Weights and Dimensions.
It's great to speak with you again, Paul. It's been about a year since we talked last. I'm interested to learn more about what you're working on currently. Can you first provide the audience with a brief background of yourself and what you're working on that would be of Interest to the Supply Chain and Logistics Community?
Hi, Dustin. Yeah. Thanks for having me again. Really, I've worked in the transportation and distribution industries for, really, the past 10 years. I've done everything from being a truck driver to working in a transportation company as a logistics person and then as an internal consultant. Two years ago, I started a website, because I saw there was a big gap in information on truck rates and dimensions. So I came up with this idea of putting together information from across all 50 US States and 10 Canadian provinces and the legal sizes and weight limits for semi-trucks.
So I put this website together, and it's been going for a few years. Really, it's targeted at... Initially, I thought it would be really useful for safety people in companies, which at the time, I was kind of aligned with that. So I saw these helpful for them, and it has been. But then over the past couple of years with the website, I saw that a lot more truck drivers themselves were coming onto the website looking for information.
So that's a little bit of the background on what I've been doing in the past and what I've been doing in the past couple of years with the website Big Truck Guide.
Is there more that you could share about why you started the textbook? You said you have an e-textbook that you wrote. Can you talk about that and why you wrote it?
Yeah. Really, I started writing an e-textbook. It's selling well, so hopefully we'll put out a paper copy soon. But really, it's essentially that interest from truck drivers that were coming on the site and then a conversation with an old colleague of mine about the fact that this would be great if the information on this website would be in a form that could be presented in a truck-driver orientation class, like in a larger trucking company or in a truck-driving school,that that information would work well in that format.
So that got me thinking that it would be essentially like... A lot of the concepts that are displayed on the website — concepts like gross weights, axle weights — they're not really taught in any structured way in schools, and there's not a lot of good material on how to actually get to that. So I just saw it as kind of a niche in the market there that needed to be filled.
So I went ahead and started working on this e-textbook. So it's about 50 pages long. It's got a lot of figures and help for drivers, and it's got four different sections. It's sectioned into four different parts, and each has their own quiz that can test the reader's knowledge with the 10 questions and the answer are at the back of the book for the cheaters.
And who will benefit from the book?
Well, really, it's truck drivers. It's really mainly targeted toward truck drivers. So just to give you an example of how complicated the weight rate ratios are... Every truck driver, whether they realize it or not, they have to comply with at least five different types of rate regulations at any one time in the US and Canada. So you have gross weights, which is the limit on total weight of the truck. So the truck driver has to take into account just his payload plus the empty weight of his truck.
Then in addition to that, you have axle weight. So every axle or group of axles on a semi-truck is regulated at a certain weight for most of the time.
Then — not to keep on going —there's also regulation on tire weights. So each state will usually specify... There's a federal regulation, and there's a state might allow a higher weight. And that's a weight per inch of tire width. So if your tire is 11 inches versus 12 inches wide, then you're going to have a different amount of weight that you can carry on that tire, just on that specific tire.
The fourth type of weight are manufacturers weights. So regardless of the other weights that I've just spoken about, you have to comply with the manufacturer's specified weight. So they'll say, "This truck" — it doesn't matter what the government says you can carry on it — "but we the manufacturer of this vehicle say that you can only put 12,000 pounds onto that steer axle." So even though the federal regulation says you can put 20,000 pounds onto one single axle, then you have to comply with that lower manufacturer's weight.
Then the fifth part is bridge weights. Bridge weights are, again, they specify a difference in weight depending on how far apart and how many axles you are. And there's a formula that's put together by the US federal government on specifying that weight that calculates out a weight between a group of axles.
So you have these five different types of weight restrictions that are really confusing, and even presenting them on my website, I wasn't able to really communicate that well what all those weight restrictions are and which ones are displayed. So I went through and explained each one of those in detail. And then there's a final part, a final chapter of the book, which is on kingpin to rear axle measures. I'm not sure whether all listeners know about these. But I found that they've been really important for truck driving. There's really been a lot of interest in that regulation.
Can you share any more of the key takeaways from the book and results that could be expected from following the recommendations?
Yeah. For sure. After you go through that book, then you'll be able to identify those five different weight areas and weight regulations. So gross weights, axle weights, tire weights, and manufacturer's weights, and bridge weights. As a driver, you'll be able to go and identify what is relevant for me in each instance and how those weights work.
The second part of the book goes on to talk about US federal laws, essentially and how they work and a little bit about their history. So there is a couple of pieces of legislation that have a big impact on truck weights and dimensions in the United States. They standardized them. So that's the STAA and the [inaudible 00:07:43]. There's also a lot of talk because there's these federal regulations that apply everywhere and make an 80,000-pound truck network, and that's kind of like the federal standard. But off of this federal network, essentially of federally funded roads in the US, there's lower weight restrictions or higher weight restrictions that can apply. There's also a grandfathered that changed those rates on those federal roads, those grandfathered provisions. So those are explained in another part of the book.
Then it goes on to a second part about US federal law and where dimension regulations come into effect. So you're looking at things like widths of vehicles, overall lengths of vehicles, and trailer-lengths of vehicles. So how long can your trailer be? How long are states allowed to restrict your trailer? Which is 48 feet. How long can... Your state then can say, well, you can run with 53-foot trailers, that's fine, which most states do. So you can take your 53-foot trailer, but then there's a little caveat in there, which is in the final part of the book.
And the final part of the book goes into kingpin to rear axle measures. So these have to do with the trailer lengths. So these kingpin to rear axle measures...what you can do is you measure the distance between the kingpin — and that's the part on your trailer that connects to your tractor and your tandem axles. So states restrict that distance, essentially, because they don't want drivers' trailers to swing out too far when they make a turn. So some states will restrict that distance for longer trailers.
I've found that drivers have a really hard time following this and finding this information because this is governed by the state level, even though it applies on the federal network. So you have to know, as a driver, what the kingpin-to-axle distance is in every state, even though it's not listed in any central location, except for now on Big Truck Guide.
You can also... There's also atlases that you can buy that have this, but I've found that actually some of those are out of date, and they don't have the same information that we do on the website there.
So those, I think, are the big takeaways. So what are the different types of weight restrictions; US federal laws, to really understand what you can do on the federal network; and then kingpin-to-rear-axle measures — how far can you put your tandems back and forward and what are the regulations surrounding that. And then, as I said, there are quizzes that test the knowledge of the student in each of those places.
So I hope that it's used in those situations like a truck-driver orientation class, I could imagine it being used or for truck-driver training schools. So I think it's a good thing for truck drivers in those areas.
Where can people go to learn more and to get the book?
Really, you can go onto BigTruckGuide.com. You can buy the book there, and it's available in PDF format, and also, if you purchase the book there, there are also all those quizzes are available in separate handout. So if you buy the book, it's only $9.99. You buy the book, and you get a PDF copy and EPUB copy for your e-reader. And you have all those four quizzes, and you have a student version, instructor version, and then just answers. So you have each of those quizzes separately, so you can print them off easily and hand them out.
You can also go onto Amazon, and it's available there. If you have a Kindle and you want to read it on your Kindle, then it's available on Amazon. You can just search for understanding semi-truck weight and dimension regulations, truck driver training textbook.
Thanks, Paul, for sharing today.
Yeah. Thank you very much.
About Paul Jakubicek
Founder and Head of Research at
Freight Transport Research Institute