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Commercial Motor Vehicle Size and Weight Enforcement in Europe

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Technical Report Documentation Page

  1. Report No.: FHWA-PL-07-002
  2. Government Accession No.:
  3. Recipient's Catalog No.:
  4. Title and Subtitle: Commercial Motor Vehicle Size and Weight Enforcement in Europe
  5. Report Date: March 2007
  6. Performing Organization Code:
  7. Author(s): Jeff Honefanger, Julie Strawhorn, Rick Athey, Jodi Carson, George Conner, David Jones, Tom Kearney, John Nicholas, Pam Thurber, Randy Woolley
  8. Performing Organization Report No.:
  9. Performing Organization Name and Address:
    American Trade Initiatives
    P.O. Box 8228
    Alexandria, VA 22306-8228
  10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS):
  11. Contract or Grant No.: DTFH61-99-C-005
  12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address:
    Office of International Programs
    Office of Policy
    Federal Highway Administration
    U.S. Department of Transportation
    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
  13. Type of Report and Period Covered:
  14. Sponsoring Agency Code:
  15. Supplementary Notes: FHWA COTR: Hana Maier, Office of International Programs
  16. Abstract:

    Continued growth in commerce and traffic congestion makes it difficult for industry to move freight economically without using larger and heavier loads. This trend challenges the effective and efficient monitoring of vehicle size and weight compliance. The Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and National Cooperative Highway Research Program sponsored a scanning study to evaluate procedures and technologies for enforcing commercial motor vehicle size and weight laws in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

    The scan team learned that the European countries use various technologies, such as bridge weigh-in-motion systems, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of motor vehicle size and weight enforcement. The team observed a greater use of mobile enforcement activities and fewer fixed roadside weight facilities in Europe than in the United States.

    The team's recommendations for U.S. implementation include a pilot installation of a bridge weigh-in-motion system, a demonstration of the European mobile enforcement approach to prescreening suspected overweight vehicles, and a synthesis of existing research on linkages between overweight commercial motor vehicles and roadway safety.

  17. Key Words: commercial motor vehicle, enforcement technology, harmonization, mobile enforcement, overweight/oversize vehicle, vehicle size and weight, weigh-in-motion
  18. Distribution Statement: No restrictions. This document is available to the public from the: Office of International Programs, FHWA-HPIP, Room 3325, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC 20590
  19. Security Classify. (of this report): Unclassified
  20. Security Classify. (of this page): Unclassified
  21. No. of Pages: 100
  22. Price: Free

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Reproduction of completed page authorized


This document is disseminated with the cooperation of American Trade Initiatives under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program for the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or the use thereof. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. The United States Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade and manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Size and Weight Enforcement in Europe - March 2007

Prepared by the International Scanning Study Team:

Jeff Honefanger (cochair), Ohio DOT
Julie Strawhorn (cochair), FHWA
Rick Athey, Arizona DOT
Jodi L. Carson (report facilitator), Texas Transportation Institute
George Conner, Alabama DOT
David Jones, FHWA
Tom Kearney, FHWA
John Nicholas, Washington State Patrol
Pam Thurber, Vermont Agency of Transportation
Randy Woolley, California DOT


Federal Highway Administration U.S. Department of Transportation

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

National Cooperative Highway Research Program


This report was developed in cooperation with the members of the scan team and numerous individuals who served as resources for information on commercial motor vehicle size and weight enforcement activities in the countries investigated. Special thanks are extended to the following individuals for their assistance in this study:




The Netherlands



International Technology Scanning Program

The International Technology Scanning Program, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), accesses and evaluates innovative foreign technologies and practices that could significantly benefit U.S. highway transportation systems. This approach allows for advanced technology to be adapted and put into practice much more efficiently without spending scarce research funds to re-create advances already developed by other countries.

FHWA and AASHTO, with recommendations from NCHRP, jointly determine priority topics for teams of U.S. experts to study. Teams in the specific areas being investigated are formed and sent to countries where significant advances and innovations have been made in technology, management practices, organizational structure, program delivery, and financing. Scan teams usually include representatives from FHWA, State departments of transportation, local governments, transportation trade and research groups, the private sector, and academia.

After a scan is completed, team members evaluate findings and develop comprehensive reports, including recommendations for further research and pilot projects to verify the value of adapting innovations for U.S. use. Scan reports, as well as the results of pilot programs and research, are circulated throughout the country to State and local transportation officials and the private sector. Since 1990, about 70 international scans have been organized on topics such as pavements, bridge construction and maintenance, contracting, intermodal transport, organizational management, winter road maintenance, safety, intelligent transportation systems, planning, and policy.

The International Technology Scanning Program has resulted in significant improvements and savings in road program technologies and practices throughout the United States. In some cases, scan studies have facilitated joint research and technology-sharing projects with international counterparts, further conserving resources and advancing the state of the art. Scan studies have also exposed transportation professionals to remarkable advancements and inspired implementation of hundreds of innovations. The result: large savings of research dollars and time, as well as significant improvements in the Nation's transportation system.

Scan reports can be obtained through FHWA free of charge by e-mailing international@fhwa.dot.gov. Scan reports are also available electronically and can be accessed on the FHWA Office of International Programs Web Site at www.international.fhwa.dot.gov.

International Technology Scan Reports

International Technology Scanning Program: Bringing Global Innovations to U.S. Highways


Planning and Environment

Policy and Information





All publications are available on the Internet at: www.international.fhwa.dot.gov

Acronyms and Abbreviations

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
Transport Research Center (the Netherlands)
German Federal Office for Transport of Goods
Bundesanstalt fur Strassenwesen (Germany's Federal Highway Research Institute)
Belgian Road Research Center
bridge weigh-in-motion
European Committee for Standardization
commercial motor vehicle
department of transportation
dedicated short-range communications
Road and Hydraulic Engineering Institute (the Netherlands)
Electronic Control Measure
European Control Route
European Commission
European Parliament
European Union
Swiss Federal Roads Authority
Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Global Positioning System
gross vehicle weight
heavy goods vehicle
high-speed weigh-in-motion
International Conference on Weigh-in-Motion
International Transport Research Documentation
intelligent transportation system
International Vehicle Weight Certificate
kilometers per hour
Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussees (France)
Road Traffic Management Information System (Switzerland)
multiple-sensor weigh-in-motion
Nothing-on-the-Road/Free-of-Axle Detector
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
onboard unit
International Organization of Legal Metrology
Requirements for Enforcement of Overloaded Vehicles in Europe
Système Informatisé de REcueil de DOnnées (France)
public-private partnership
scan tour implementation team
European Traffic Police Network
Transportation Research Information Services
vehicle size and weight
Weighing-in-Motion of Axles and Vehicles for Europe
weigh-in-motion with video
Zavod za gradbenistvo Slovenije (Slovenia's National Building and Civil Engineering Institute)

Executive Summary

Significant growth in domestic and international commerce, coupled with ever-increasing traffic congestion and delay on surface transportation networks, challenges the ability of industry to move freight economically without the use of larger and heavier loads. This trend challenges limited enforcement resources tasked with monitoring vehicle size and weight compliance in the interest of infrastructure preservation and in response to the structural constraints of the existing infrastructure. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Technology Implementation Group has identified the weigh-in-motion (WIM) concept and its capabilities as a focus technology for enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of vehicle size and weight enforcement in the United States.

The potential benefits of WIM-based vehicle size and weight enforcement extend beyond infrastructure preservation to include the following:

The scanning study on commercial motor vehicle size and weight (VSW) enforcement, conducted June 16 through July 2, 2006, included a review and evaluation of contemporary European procedures and technologies for enforcing commercial motor vehicle size and weight laws and regulations.

Based on information obtained from reports on prior related scanning studies, published literature, various Internet sites, and U.S. and European experts in the field, recommended sites for the scanning study included France, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Switzerland. In addition to visiting these countries, the scan team met with members of the European Union (EU) in Brussels, Belgium, to gain perspective on efforts to harmonize VSW enforcement activities among different countries.

The scanning study was conducted by a team of experts in the area of commercial motor vehicle size and weight enforcement. Jeff Honefanger, AASHTO cochair, and Julie Strawhorn, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) cochair, led the 10-member team, which included personnel from FHWA (three members), various State departments of transportation (DOTs) (five members), law enforcement (one member), and academia (one member). In addition to breadth across agency types, the team had expertise in motor vehicle size and weight technologies, procedures, data applications, public-private involvement, and harmonization.

Scan Purpose and Scope

The scope of the scanning study included a review and evaluation of contemporary European procedures and technologies for enforcing commercial motor vehicle size and weight laws and regulations. Specifically, the study considered the following, as applied in Europe:

Intrinsic benefits related to infrastructure preservation, enforcement efficiency and effectiveness, commercial motor vehicle productivity, emissions, safety, and data quantity and quality were considered concurrently in this investigation.

General Findings

General findings and observations resulting from the six-country scanning study are summarized below. Findings are generally categorized as enforcement technologies, enforcement procedures, unique data applications, public-private funding, and harmonization approaches.

Enforcement Technologies
Enforcement Procedures
Unique Data Applications
Public-Private Funding
Harmonization Approaches

Team Recommendations

Based on these general findings and observations, the scan team ranked a preliminary list of European commercial motor vehicle size and weight enforcement technologies and procedures as having "high," "medium," or "low" interest levels for implementation consideration in the United States. These relative rankings did not recommend implementation of the various technologies or procedures, but instead indicated interest in further investigation.

After the scan, the scan tour implementation team (STIT) focused on implementation opportunities assigned a high interest level and worked further with scan team members to prioritize the 17 initial opportunities included in this category. Some opportunities were later combined because of perceived overlap. Through this process, the STIT identified seven specific implementation opportunities as having the greatest potential benefit to U.S. commercial motor vehicle size and weight enforcement procedures:

Specific strategies for advancing these implementation opportunities were also identified, with various scan team members assigned supporting action items. These implementation opportunities and strategies are detailed below.

Slovenia Bridge Weigh-in-Motion (Slovenia, France)

Bridge weigh-in-motion (B-WIM) was initially identified in the late 1970s in the United States and developed in the WAVE Project. European researchers continued to advance field testing and applied research into the concept, leading to its widespread deployment in Slovenia. B-WIM is a vital component of Slovenia's commercial motor vehicle weight monitoring system and is used to prescreen commercial vehicles for weight enforcement purposes. SiWIM in Slovenia was developed and implemented through a partnership between research staff at the National Building and Civil Engineering Institute's (ZAG) Research Department and a private engineering firm, CESTEL. Deployment of Slovenian SiWIM targets short-deck (5- to 10-meter) orthotropic bridges. Extensive research into the reaction of the bridge deck to weights has led to the ability to estimate, within acceptable levels of accuracy for prescreening, a vehicle's static weight. Analysis and data collection leading to this capability centered on the behavior of the "influence line" when truck weights are applied to the bridge's deck. Weight-detection instrumentation is applied at the under-deck location of the structure, eliminating the need to disrupt traffic flow during installation. Multiple sensors are used to monitor travel lanes and a sensor data hub or cabinet feature is used to draw readings from the individual sensors and composite the deck loading readings. Axle weights, gross vehicle weights (GVW), axle spacing, vehicle speed, and vehicle class are captured through this data collection approach.

The Netherlands is analyzing its inventory of structures to determine the number and location of bridges where B-WIM could be deployed. Recently, one bridge WIM system was installed for testing under Dutch highway conditions. In France, significant applied research efforts are concentrated on advancing the use of B-WIM on multiple-span, multiple-lane structures and steel orthotropic deck bridges. The filtering of sensor readings from several vehicles on the bridge deck simultaneously is the target of current research efforts. The scan team visited the Autreville orthotropic steel bridge site on the A31 motorway outside of Nancy, France. French hosts provided a tour of the site layout and demonstrated the SiWIM under testing.

Eliminating the need to disrupt traffic flow and minimizing worker risk when installing traditional roadway telemetry, B-WIM was seen to possess major benefits over current U.S. practices. Also, as seen in Slovenia, the time required for installation is not significant and, once bridge deck superstructures are instrumented, B-WIM is highly portable. In Slovenia, five SiWIM devices are used to collect data for 1 week at 30 locations twice a year. U.S. applications of B-WIM would enhance prescreening capabilities for commercial motor vehicle weight enforcement, as well as provide important information to bridge management systems. The choice of a suitable bridge and the development of an appropriate instrumentation plan and related calibration procedures may be challenging and require a high expertise level.

Implementation Strategy (George Conner, Pam Thurber, and Randy Woolley)
Swiss Heavy Goods Vehicle Control Facility (Switzerland)

To protect highway tunnel facilities and roadway infrastructure from the impacts of heavy trucks, Switzerland has developed and implemented an efficient and effective approach to simultaneously measuring commercial vehicle size and weight at stationary enforcement locations. The system also includes a high-speed weigh-in-motion (HS-WIM) and video (VID) technology component that is used to strategically select trucks requiring additional measurements.

The scan team had the opportunity to observe enforcement procedures at the control facility outside of Bern, Switzerland. Mobile enforcement details escorted vehicles into the facility for additional measurements using the HS-WIM/VID prescreening capability. Vehicles were directed onto a weigh bridge (i.e., static scale pad instrumented with several load cell scales) that provides simultaneous axle and gross vehicle weight measurements. An overhead gantry fitted with laser scanners capable of capturing commercial vehicle length, height, and width measurements is used simultaneously.

An attractive element of the Swiss heavy goods control facility operation is the user-friendly presentation of data to enforcement officers operating the system. A horizontal line on the computer screen represents legal axle and gross vehicle weight allowances with violations clearly presented as exceeding this allowance line. Size dimensions exceeding legal allowances are highlighted in red on a three-dimensional model of the vehicle. Size- and weight-related citations are generated automatically for issuance to the vehicle operator and submission to the appropriate judiciary officials. Swiss enforcement personnel described the advantages of this system over traditional portable scale and manual measurements efforts. More accurate measurements are conducted with less manpower, resulting in more effective enforcement performed in considerably less time. The Swiss operate three control centers, with additional centers in the planning and development stages. The scan team believes that U.S. deployment of such an enforcement station at key high-volume domestic or international land crossing locations would be beneficial.

Implementation Strategy (Jeff Honefanger and Tom Kearney)
Prescreening for Mobile Enforcement (Slovenia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France)

A significant level of interest exists in the United States in the use of automation tools and technology to improve commercial motor vehicle size and weight enforcement. The scan team witnessed similar mobile enforcement activities in four of the six countries visited: Slovenia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France. Common features and elements were identified in each. High-speed WIM technology was used in each case for mainline prescreening of suspected overweight commercial motor vehicles. Video capture (i.e., digital photo images) of the vehicle was triggered by overweight detections. Both weight and image data were transmitted via short-range communications to enforcement personnel, allowing them to identify appropriate commercial vehicles in the traffic stream and escort them off the mainline for further investigation. Such systems are referred to as WIM/VID in Europe. Such approaches were embraced by the COST 323 action and are used widely by EU member nations.

U.S. States use elements of this approach to varying degrees. The scan team identified the need for a comparative analysis to measure the differences between the state of the practice for mobile enforcement in the United States and that observed in several European countries. The team believes that advancement of the most effective mobile enforcement practices could be supported and delivered most expeditiously once State-level variations are identified and compared to European practices.

Implementation Strategy (Ric Athey and John Nicholas)
Applying WIM for Direct Enforcement: A Template for Implementation and Certification (France and the Netherlands)

In many cases, the difficulty in deploying advanced technologies stems from institutional barriers. The widespread deployment and use of technologies for commercial motor vehicle size and weight enforcement require support from both the metrological bodies responsible for equipment certification and judicial bodies responsible for related legal actions. Low-speed WIM systems can be tested and certified using similar methods as static weighing equipment, making deployment of the WIM systems a logical first step toward direct enforcement. The testing and certification process for high-speed WIM systems is more complex and requires the development of new acceptance methods.

French officials are leading in their efforts to overcome institutional challenges to the use of low-speed WIM systems for direct enforcement (i.e., gaining acceptance from the national metrology and judiciary communities). While the French are focused on the initial acceptance of low-speed WIM systems, the Dutch are focused on gaining acceptance of high-speed WIM.

Because a similar development process would be required in the United States, the scan team recommended an indepth review of the French and Dutch evolutionary process for acceptance of WIM systems for direct enforcement, with a concurrent review of the U.S. direct enforcement climate and requirements.

Implementation Strategy (Jodi Carson)
Behavior-Based Enforcement Activities (the Netherlands and France)

Using the European WIM/VID (photo) approach of simultaneously capturing a digital image of the vehicle when an overweight condition is detected, officials in the Netherlands and France have gained additional knowledge of the trucking firms most frequently operating in an overweight condition. This information is captured continuously (i.e., 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), regardless of whether mobile enforcement activity is taking place. Historical WIM information is reviewed, typically on a monthly basis, to determine trucking firms that most frequently engage in overloading practices. Enforcement officials contact the most frequently offending firms to encourage compliant loading behavior. After this contact, the trucking firm begins a probationary period. If no positive change is observed through continued monitoring by WIM/VID systems, graduated enforcement actions are taken. France is beginning a 3-year study to determine the effectiveness of this process.

The scan team observed that this general process is similar to the safety inspection steps routinely followed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in its oversight of trucking firms operating commercial vehicle fleets. The application of this process to commercial motor vehicle weight enforcement in the United States shows promise for firms that could have reasonably brought their loading practices into legal compliance with relevant laws.

Implementation Strategy (Julie Strawhorn and Mike Onder)
Synthesis of Safety Implications of Oversize/Overweight Commercial Vehicles (Belgium)

In the United States, justification and authority for the conduct of commercial vehicle weight enforcement are vested in the public's interest in preserving highway infrastructure and promoting a climate of equity and fairness among trucking firms (i.e., not allowing violators to be rewarded at the expense of law-abiding firms). These same principles and interests were reported in each of the countries the scan team visited. In addition, several of the countries identified safety as a primary motivator for commercial vehicle size and weight enforcement. In Belgium, officials have linked weight enforcement activities to the public's interest in safe operating conditions on the highways. After years of weight and speed data collection and analysis, Belgian officials noted direct relationships between excessive speed by overweight vehicles involved in highway accidents and the frequency of fatalities occurring in accidents including such vehicles. As a result, they were able to build the case to legislative leaders that weight and speed needed to be aggressively regulated. Governors, or speed-monitoring devices, are installed on trucks to control their maximum speed. Speed violations are treated as criminal offenses, since excessive speeds can be achieved only by tampering with the speed-control devices.

The scan team indicated a desire to better understand the relationship between commercial motor vehicle weight condition and safety in the United States. While public concerns about the impact of overweight vehicles on bridge and pavement conditions and on equitable trade practices are valid, the safety benefits tied to commercial vehicle weight enforcement activities need to be better defined. The scan team proposes an assimilation of existing safety studies and research to improve understanding.

Implementation Strategy (George Conner and Mike Onder)
Effective Use of WIM Data: The Dutch Case Study (the Netherlands)

In the Netherlands, every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., an e-mail with an attachment detailing the frequency of truck weight violations by location, time of day, and day of the week is distributed to enforcement personnel responsible for scheduling enforcement actions and transportation personnel charged with infrastructure condition monitoring and multimodal freight planning and forecasting. The data report is a product of a rather extensive database management operation constructed by Dutch officials. Extensive quality control and quality assurance protocols have been built into the operations of this data management system.

In the United States, State-level officials operate data management systems to manage highway and bridge programs and to monitor travel for supporting program and policy development. The scan team determined that documentation of the Dutch database management system could assist States in extracting greater value from the database systems they operate.

Implementation Strategy (David Jones and Tom Kearney)

Next Steps

Next steps include defining specific timeframes and funding requirements for implementation. Once defined, funding sources can be identified and secured.

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