20-118.4. Firefighting equipment exempt from size and weight restrictions while transporting or moving heavy equipment for emergency response and preparedness and fire prevention; permits.

(a) Exemption From Weight and Size Restrictions. - Any overweight or oversize vehicle owned and operated by a State or local government or cooperating federal agency is exempt from the weight and size restrictions of this Chapter and implementing rules while it is actively engaged in (i) a response to a fire under the authority of a forest ranger pursuant to G.S. 106-899(a); (ii) a county request for forest protection assistance pursuant to G.S. 106-906; (iii) a request for assistance under a state of emergency declared pursuant to G.S. 166A-19.20 or G.S. 166A-19.22, and any other applicable statutes and provisions of common law; (iv) a request for assistance under a disaster declared pursuant to G.S. 166A-19.21; or (v) performance of other required duties for emergency preparedness and fire prevention, when the vehicle meets the following conditions:

(1) The vehicle weight does not exceed the manufacturer's GVWR or 90,000 pounds gross weight, whichever is less.

(2) The tri-axle grouping weight does not exceed 50,000 pounds, tandem axle weight does not exceed 42,000 pounds, and the single axle weight does not exceed 22,000 pounds.

(3) A vehicle/vehicle combination does not exceed 12 feet in width and a total overall vehicle combination length of 75 feet from bumper to bumper.

(b) Marking, Lighting, and Bridge Requirements. - Vehicle/vehicle combinations subject to an exemption or permit under this section shall not be exempt from the requirement of a yellow banner on the front and rear measuring a total length of seven feet by 18 inches bearing the legend "Oversize Load" in 10 inch black letters 1.5 inches wide, and red or orange flags measuring 18 inches square to be displayed on all sides at the widest point of load. In addition, when operating between sunset and sunrise, flashing amber lights shall be displayed on each side of the load at the widest point. Vehicle/vehicle combinations subject to an exemption or permit under this section shall not exceed posted bridge limits without prior approval from the Department of Transportation.

(c) Definition of "Response." - A response lasts from the time an overweight or oversize vehicle is requested until the vehicle is returned to its base location and restored to a state of readiness for another response.

(c1) Definition of "Preparedness and Fire Prevention." - Movement of equipment for the purpose of hazardous fuel reduction, training, equipment maintenance, pre-suppression fire line installation, fire prevention programs, and equipment staging. In order to qualify for the exception in subsection (a) of this section, equipment must remain configured during movement for one or more of these purposes.

(d) Discretionary Annual or Single Trip Permit for Emergency Response by a Commercial Vehicle. - The Department of Transportation may, in its discretion, issue an annual or single trip special use permit waiving the weight and size restrictions of this Chapter and implementing rules for a commercial overweight or oversize vehicle actively engaged in a response to a fire or a request for assistance from a person authorized to direct emergency operations. The Department of Transportation may condition the permit with safety measures that do not unreasonably delay a response. The Department of Transportation may issue the single trip special use permit upon verbal communication, provided the requestor submits appropriate documentation and fees on the next business day.

(e) No Liability for Issuance of Permit Under This Section. - The action of issuing a permit by the Department of Transportation under this section is a governmental function and does not subject the Department of Transportation to liability for injury to a person or damage to property as a result of the activity. (2007-290, s. 1; 2012-12, s. 2(g); 2012-78, s. 7.)