Local Politics

Lawmakers to consider lifting truck restrictions

Posted June 25, 2008

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— The House Transportation Committee on Wednesday will consider legislation that would allow trucks with 53-foot-long trailers on all primary highway routes.

Current law restricts the long rigs to interstates and designated highways. It allows 48-foot trailers anywhere.

The measure would also allow recreational boats to be hauled on roads without a permit if they are less than 10 feet wide, compared with the current 8½ feet. Weight restrictions on trucks carrying agricultural products and lumber would also be loosened.

The Senate approved the bill 47-0 last week.

Truck Safety Coalition state coordinator Jen Tierney said the proposed legislation is unsafe and would lead to more accidents because some of the routes are too narrow to accommodate them.

“The economic gain for the traffic industry is not worth the lives of our citizens,” Tierney said.

The bill's backers have said the legislation is needed to help grow North Carolina's economy. The trucking industry supports the plan because, it said, some trucks can't get to and from businesses.

“The size trucks being proposed in the legislation really has been the industry standard for a decade now,” state Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Sherry Melton said.

The bill's opponents said even experienced truck drivers will have difficulty maneuvering longer trucks on two-lane or winding roads.

Lake Lure Police Chief Eric Hester said truck drivers already struggle to control their vehicles when traversing some of his town's routes, and that his officers sometimes escort the small trucks in an effort to stave off an accident.

Both residents and police officers alike have been run off the road by wayward trucks in his town, which is about 45 minutes outside of Asheville, he said.

"I have seen 48-foot trucks coming through the town of Lake Lure ... that cannot stay in their own lane, much less a 53-foot truck," Hester said.

The bill allows for the Department of Transportation to work with the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee to bar vehicles on specific routes if engineering studies show their use would be unsafe.

The bill doesn't make engineering studies of the routes mandatory, however.

"This is putting the cart before the horse," Tierney said. "This is a post-mortem approach to highway safety."

The state Department of Transportation, which has some safety concerns about the plan, has begun assembling a list of routes that may pose a safety risk if opened to the larger vehicles, said DOT state traffic engineer Kevin Lacy.

But studying all the roads included in the bill would take months, if not longer, he said.

"The ones that we're concerned about are those that may not be as apparent as some up in the mountains," Lacy said.

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, House Transportation Committee chairwoman, said she is aware of the safety concerns and that her panel will consider amendments to the plan if they're proposed.

The full House and Senate need to approve the same version of the bill before it can be sent to Gov. Mike Easley's desk.

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  • inform Jun 25, 2008

    It isn't the length or the width, but increasing the weight restriction that is of particular concern. With the roads in such poor shape already, including bridges, I'd like to know how the bill proponents propose to raise the extra money that would be needed for road maintenance, given the additional tonnage.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Jun 25, 2008

    Why have longer trucks on roads not designed for these type of vehicles? Use trains instead if the load is bigger than the existing trucks available.

  • doodad Jun 25, 2008

    The weight upon roadbeds that were not designed for the additional weights will create more road repair in the future.

  • john60 Jun 25, 2008

    It's not just the length, but this law is about to allow heavier trucks to use roads that never were designed to handle their weight. Like others have said, many NC rural secondary roads already have narrow lanes (10' or narrower) with little to no shoulders. Trucks barreling down these roads will create hazards for everyone; other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians too. Throw that into the mix along with tearing up the roads, and this is going to just create more problems than benefits.

  • Sound Tech Jun 25, 2008

    Before a lot of people start talking about how dangerous this will make our highways let me point out that this has been going on for years in North Carolina anyway. Only recently has law enforcement started cracking down on overlegnth vehicles on certain routes because they know the law is changing and they are trying to collect revenue before it does. Another thing about the longer 53' trailers is that the axle spread cannot be any longer than a vehicle that is pulling a 48'trailer so therefore it will track along the same path as the 48' trailers that are currently leagal on all highways. Only in a few isolated areas, mostly in the mountainous zones, will it create some safety situations but the driver of the vehicle will probably be driving at a reduced speed because of the elements around them. Like I said people 53' trailers have been travelling on all NC highways for at least the last 10 to 15 years with no more problems or accidents than any other tractor trailer combination.

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus Jun 25, 2008

    I'm sure they'll find a way to ram the 53' trailers through, which honestly, is not that big a deal to me. At least the drivers have CDLs and are already driving 48 footers.

    The 10' wide recreational boats, though, are just disturbing. I'm regularly pushed away from the center line by people hauling their boats on back road already - I can't imagine what it's going to be like when you add another foot and a half to a boat that already doesn't fit properly in the lane. There are going to be some great boat-on-boat accidents if this passes...

  • ifcdirector Jun 25, 2008

    Why are dump trucks allowed to drive around throwing rocks into traffic without a license tag on the back of the truck? Where is the logic in that and who in the trucking industry bribed the legislature into letting them get away with that? I guess if you are injured by a rock this gives them the anonymity they need to make a clean getaway? What would happen to me if I bolted my license tag to the front of my car? Unreal how these industries can get what they want at the expense of the lives and well being of the citizens government is supposed to be protecting and serving.

  • chargernut69 Jun 25, 2008

    Sure, like the NC secondary roads are wide enough now... How many of them do you see with a shoulder? I guess there are trucking lobbyists in the legistlature...

    And, by the way "Share the very narrow roads" with the bicyclists...

  • Adelinthe Jun 25, 2008

    "Lawmakers to consider lifting truck restrictions"

    The insurance companies will love that...NOT!

    God bless.

    REv. RB