Tesla Model X Is Too Heavy to Drive Legally on Brooklyn Bridge

It's not alone. Perhaps it's time to go after all the load limit scofflaws.

Water view of the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset against a blue sky

Through the Lens / Getty Images

We have never been fond of big SUVs and LTVs (light trucks and vans), the gas-guzzling space-stealing monoliths that seem out of place in the country but are so popular in the cities these days. In New York it seems that everyone is chauffeured around in them—big Escalades, Navigators, Suburbans, and Lexi. Pedestrians are like flies on a windshield when they get hit by these, their hoods and grills are like walls. Really, they are so dangerous, three times as likely to kill as a car, that they should not be allowed in cities.

And apparently in New York City they are not even legal, if you ever plan on driving over the Brooklyn Bridge. It has a three-ton weight limit and, as Will Sabel Courtney of The Drive points out, the popular pickups and SUVs all exceed this. Big pickups aren't a thing in Manhattan but the Escalades are everywhere; however, Courtney notes that "the NYPD officers situated at each end of the bridge don’t seem bothered." Neither is anyone else:

"Like the Navigator, upgrading to the extended-wheelbase Escalade and you’ll top the Brooklyn Bridge’s weight cap. Yet the ESV tends to be the 'Slade of choice among New York’s livery car drivers, which means many of those trips that bankers take from Wall Street to their Brooklyn Heights brownstones are illegal. (Then again, it may be the least illegal thing they do all day. Zing!)"

Other vehicles are surprisingly close, fancy expensive cars like Bentleys and Land Rovers and Porsche Cayennes, where the weight of the passengers and the groceries put them over the top.

White Tesla car with doors and roof open
Tesla Motors

But the biggest surprise of all—the Tesla Model X—has a curb weight that is under 6,000 pounds but in fact has a real GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 6,768 pounds. This is a feature, not a bug; vehicles over 6,000 pounds or three tons are considered work vehicles, not cars, and actually qualify for what used be be called the Hummer Loophole, a $ 25,000 tax credit. And indeed, a Tesla rep told Autoblog Green: "Yes, the curb weight of Model X is 5,441 lbs. So we expect the GVWR to exceed 6,000 lbs. This means a Section 179 deduction could be taken for to up to $25,000 of the purchase price."

I am not certain Tesla thought about this when they decided to locate their big new showroom in Brooklyn.

Over on Jalopnik, Rafael Orlove thinks that it is time to enforce the law. "So I would like to take this moment to remind the NYPD that they should feel free to fine, arrest, or PIT maneuver any Tesla Model X driver they see on the bridge." I don't think they should be picked on; why not enforce the law for all the bridge scofflaws, all the SUVs and black cabs that exceed three tons? It's the law.

Bridge weight restrictions are no joke. They exist to ensure the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and everyone in the vicinity and to allow for the smooth, continuous flow of traffic. Ratings are determined by engineers and builders who have calculated the maximum weight a structure can bear; to ignore it could potentially endanger public safety. (Think about the tragic bridge collapse in 2018 in Genoa, Italy.)

As Autoblog pointed out, "All this extra weight is taking its toll. The Brooklyn Bridge was among the spans flagged in a 2013 report by the Federal Highway Administration that found more than 65,000 of America's bridges were classified as 'structurally deficient.'"

This isn't a new issue, either. Streetsblog covered it years ago, with a commenter publishing the applicable laws:

Section 4-15 (b)(13):
"Weight and height restrictions on bridges, viaducts and other structures. No person shall operate or move a vehicle or combination of vehicles over, on or through any bridge, viaduct or other structures on any highway if the weight of such vehicle or combination of vehicles and load is greater than the posted capacity of the structure or exceeds the height of the posted clearance as shown by an official sign or other marking or device."
Section 4-15 (c):"Enforcement, measurement and weight of vehicles. Any law enforcement officer or any inspector of the Department of Consumer Affairs of the City of New York having reason to believe that any vehicle or load is in violation of the restrictions in subdivision(b), above, is authorized to stop the vehicle on any public highway or private street open to public motor vehicle traffic and measure and weigh it by means of portable or stationary measures and scales. Any law enforcement officer or such inspector may require that the vehicle be driven to the nearest scales, if they are within 3 miles."