This is an appeal from two convictions rendered by the Hudson County District Court whereby defendants Patfol Inc. and Vincent Sullivan were found guilty of operating an overwidth vehicle in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-84. Since the issue presented in both cases was similar, the matter was consolidated in the Hudson County District Court. The court imposed a fine of $200 upon each defendant.
The facts in the above matter have been stipulated for the purpose of this appeal. The defendant Patfol Inc. was issued a complaint charging a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-84 while one of its commercial vehicles was operating on Route 1 on May 16, 1961. The width of the vehicle in question, together with its load which extended beyond the outside dimensions of the vehicle, was 106 inches. The defendant Vincent Sullivan was issued a complaint charging a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-84 for operating a vehicle on Route 440 on June 7, 1961. The width of the vehicle in question inclusive of load was 100 inches. Both
of the above vehicles were within the 96-inch prohibition of N.J.S.A. 39:3-84. The summonses were issued in the above matters by a motor vehicle inspector in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:3-84.3. It was conceded at the trial of this case that the load on each vehicle consisted of cement pipes some 36 inches in diameter which were loaded on the vehicle at right angles to the road.
The question to be decided by the court is whether or not the limitation of 96 inches of the width of any vehicle as set forth in the first paragraph of N.J.S.A. 39:3-84 is to be construed to include the load or only the actual vehicle.
The statute in question as to the width of any vehicle is stringent. It even prohibits the Board of Public Utilities from authorizing any vehicle in excess of 96 inches unless (1) upon certification that said width is not unsafe and (2) not in conflict with the United States Government rules and regulations. With reference to the length of a vehicle, the statute provides for total overall length of 50 feet, inclusive of load, except for vehicles carrying loads incapable of dismemberment not exceeding 70 feet, excepting utility companies. The statute further provides for a red flag by day and a red light by night on vehicles carrying loads extending beyond the rear of said vehicle. One may wonder if this regulation applies to a vehicle carrying a load higher than 13 1/2 feet and wider than 96 inches as prohibited by this section.
It is clear that the Legislature, in limiting the height, length, width and weight of commercial vehicles, not only sought to prevent damage to the state highways and highway structures, but also to insure the safe operation of vehicles on the highways of this State. State v. Gratale Bros. Inc. , 26 N.J. Super. 581 (App. Div. 1953); State v. Metropolitan Iron and Steel Co. , 62 N.J. Super. 412 (Law Div. 1960).
It is fundamental that all statutes are to be construed so as to give effect to the intent of the Legislature.
In Sperry and Hutchinson Co. v. Margetts , 15 N.J. 203, 209 (1954), the court stated:
"The particular words are to be made responsive to the reason and spirit of the enactment. Wright v. Vogt , 7 N.J. 1 (1951). The purpose of construction is to bring the operation of the statute within the apparent intention of the Legislature."
In the quest for legislative intention, the letter of the law should yield to the rationale of the exception. As the court stated in Alexander v. New Jersey Power ...