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Fewer Overweight Trucks Make Safer Roads, Troopers Say

The state Highway Patrol has set a new annual record for overweight trucks pulled off the roads, lessening stress on asphalt and drivers, troopers said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Shattered records show that the state Highway Patrol has been doing its job to keep the roads safer by keeping overweight trucks off them.

In 2007, the force has already broken its all-time record for the number of pounds removed from the roads in a single year. Through early November, the tally was at 200 million pounds and still ticking the scales upward.

Independent trucker Greg Heard explained that overweight trucks place stress both on roads and on drivers.

"I don't like to pull heavy stuff," Heard said. "It's hard on the equipment, it burns more fuel, and if someone blows up right in front you, you can't stop. You're going to hit them."

State trooper R.C. Pugh said he has been playing a cat-and-mouse game, finding and stopping overweight trucks for eight years. He said the rise in heavy loads coincided with the increase in diesel fuel prices.

"It encourages the driver to put as much load on the truck as he can to get every bit of his money for that trip," Pugh said.

Rick Cates, the North Carolina Trucking Association's director of safety and security, said many of the violators are out-of-state truckers.

"A lot of that's coming through the state. Some people are not just educated on the pounds coming through the state of North Carolina," Cates said. "That doesn't necessarily say that's a North Carolina carrier."

The Highway Patrol credited the integration of Department of Motor Vehicle enforcement officers and troopers that began in 2003. Operation Road Watch, which began in January, has also contributed to the record number of overweight pounds, Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said.

"We had to get people trained. We had to get people up to speed, and the enforcement was not where we wanted it to be," Clendenin said. "Since '03, it's significantly increased to this record pace that we're on this year.

The more overweight trucks pulled, the safer the roads, Clendenin said. Troopers said that a truck that plowed into Peggy's Restaurant in Harnett County in 2004, killing one person, was overweight.

"If you look at big-truck fatalities, you can see there's a national trend that they've decreased over the years, so, hopefully, we're helping contribute to that," Clendenin said.


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