This is an appeal from a number of convictions for operating certain vehicles on a public highway without mud flaps, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-79.1, which provides in relevant part as follows:
No person shall operate or cause to be operated any bus, truck, full trailer or semitrailer of registered gross weight exceeding three tons on any public highway unless the same is equipped with suitable metal protectors or substantial flexible flaps on the rearmost wheels * * * provided however , this act shall not apply to pole trailers, dump trucks, tanks, or other vehicles where the construction thereof is such that complete freedom around the wheel area is necessary to secure the designated use of the vehicle.
A stenographic record having been made in the municipal court, the matter was heard de novo on the record. R. 3:23-8(a).
The essential facts were stipulated. In all instances the vehicles involved were "truck-tractors." This term is defined in N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 as
In common parlance, the "tractor" is the cab portion of a tractor-trailer. It is undisputed that none of the involved vehicles were equipped with mudflaps.
The only testimony offered in the municipal court was the opinion of an expert who testified that
A bobtailing tractor, not only in hazardous weather, but in good weather, constitutes a hazard * * * [if] the rear wheels are unprotected * * *.
Defendants assert that "bobtailing tractors" (as they are often called when not pulling a trailer) are not included among the vehicles expressly enumerated in N.J.S.A. 39:3-79.1, whether as a vehicle subject to or excepted therefrom. The statute is silent as to "tractors," "truck-tractors" and "bobtailing tractors."
The State's argument is two-fold: First, as a matter of statutory construction, the term "truck" includes those vehicles which are the subject of this appeal, and second, the legislative intent is clearly expressed in the statute, and a fair application of the facts to the purpose of the statute in question must result in a conviction.
With respect to the State's first contention, this court finds that the term "truck," as set forth in N.J.S.A. 39:3-79.1, does not include the vehicles involved herein. The terms "truck" and "truck-tractor" are defined in N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 and have separate and distinct meanings. A truck is a vehicle used primarily for the transportation of property; a ...