Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Monday, 11 March 2013 08:07
Ohio lawmakers are debating the weighty issue of allowing heavier trucks on state routes.
|A truck travels east on St. Rt. 582 in Wood County. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The measure was passed the Ohio House and may be discussed as early as today in the Senate Transportation Committee. House Bill 35 increases the maximum truck weight on state highways from 80,000 to 90,000 pounds. It also extends the distance to two miles that triple-trailer trucks can drive on once leaving the Ohio Turnpike where they are allowed.
The heavier truck provision was requested by State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon. When questioned, Wachtmann said the change would benefit businesses, including his bottled water delivery business, according to Associated Press.
However, the heavier truck traffic is being opposed by several county engineer offices, the Ohio Sheriffs Association, Ohio Chiefs of Police, Ohio County Commissioners Association and the Ohio Townships Association.
The additional weight will cause more wear on state roads and more serious accidents, according to Larry Lloyd, state director of Coalition Against Bigger Trucks.
"If you add 10,000 pounds to vehicles, you are going to increase the severity of accidents," he said.
Lloyd visited the Wood County Commissioners last week to ask them to join the opposition to the weight change.
According to Lloyd, the increased tonnage would create several problems, including accident risks and damage to state roads - and other roads that the heavier trucks may illegally take to reach their destinations.
Heavier trucks are more dangerous, he said, requiring greater stopping distances, having a higher likelihood of rollover, and an increased risk of being involved in a serious crash.
At the current 80,000 pound limit, trucks only pay for about 80 percent of the damage they cause to roads and bridges, Lloyd said. Using that calculation, a 90,000 pound truck would only pay for 50 to 60 percent of the damages -- leaving taxpayers responsible for the remainder.
And while the bill would only allow the heavier trucks on state roads, it is likely the trucks would have to travel county, township, city or interstate routes to reach their destinations, Lloyd said.
Wood County Engineer Ray Huber agreed.
"It's going to impact our roads significantly," Huber told the commissioners. County roads and bridges are designed for the maximum truck weight of 80,000 pounds. And while the law would only allow the greater weight on state roads, Huber had his doubts that the trucks would stop there.
"The truckers are going to find other ways to circumvent the system," he said.
Lloyd said the damage done to roads will not be worth the change for businesses.
"As we all know, revenues are dwindling. Our infrastructure is going to continue to deteriorate," he said.
The Wood County Commissioners agreed to talk to State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Tim Brown, both R-Bowling Green, to express their concerns about the truck weight change.
Brown said the truck weight limit was part of the overall transportation bill, which he voted in favor of. Brown said he has concerns about the change, but felt the need to get the transportation bill passed so Ohio qualified for federal highway funding. Brown added that he believes the truck weight provision should be pulled out of the bill for separate consideration.
Gardner said the State Senate has received several phone calls and emails about the truck weight issue. As a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, Gardner said he expects changes to the issue before the bill proceeds.