Truck Permits a Tall Order to Fill
Posted June 20, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT
BENSON — North Carolina has more than 17,000 bridges spanning its highways and byways. They're becoming a target for tractor trailers. It's a safety risk risk for all of us. The latest example, Thursday night along Interstate 95 in Johnston County near Four Oaks.
The state has a permitting process, but it seems to rely quite heavily on the honor system. Thursday's accident blocked both lanes of Interstate traffic. The trucking company involved blamed the accident on someone else.
The cargo on one South Carolina tractor trailer was simply too tall to make it under a Johnston County bridge last night.
In North Carolina, truckers hauling cargo taller than 13'6" need a special permit to do so. The trucker in Thursday's accident didn't have one, and the top of the container he was carrying hit the bottom of the Highway 701 bridge.
The trucking company told state officials the people they were shipping the container for gave them the wrong dimensions for it, so the company didn't know it needed a permit. It's the company's feeling the responsibility for the accident falls under the person who loaded it.
The Department of Motor Vehicles says that's no excuse. DMV Officials say the final responsibility lies on the trucker and the trucking company.
Ann Faison-Keith issues oversize permits. But she says there's no way DMV can visually inspect every truck. What's worse, she says, her department must rely on the information it gets from truckers when deciding whether to issue a permit.
The DMV says box trailers aren't the problem. It's the flatbeds that take cargo piled to any height.
Heights that don't always allow a safe passage. When the state issues an overheight permit, it gives truckers routes around bridges that could cause problems, but must still pay attention. Bridges under 14'6" tall must be marked, but some aren't.
No amount of regulation can replace common sense.
NOTE:Our bridges take a beating from the traffic of heavy trucks. Now the trucks may be about to get bigger. A Proposal by State Senator David Hoyle of Gastonia would allow tractor trailers on rural roads to be longer and wider. The measure has heavy opposition. It's set for a House Committee vote June 25th.