Truck weight issue pops up again

Staff Writer

A bill that would raise the weight limits on some farm-related vehicles has sailed through one state Senate committee but may face a tougher time before it gets to the full Senate.

"I can't see why we would do it given the condition of the roads and bridges in so many of our counties," state Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, a West Point Democrat, told Clay County supervisors Thursday.

But on the flip side, state Sen. Chuck Younger, a Republican who also is a farmer whose district covers parts of Lowndes and Monroe counties, says he supports the measure as long as counties retain the right they have now to control weights on their roads.

"I'm for the bill, I think it can help farmers and loggers. (Mississippi Department of Transportation) inspectors have given out some pretty hard tickets to loggers and folks hauling peanuts and things like that. These folks don't have any scales out in the fields and this is just to give them a little leeway. But supervisors need to have control on when and where you can haul on their roads and to even stop them if it gets to be a real problem," Younger stated.

The legislation, SB 2418, would raise the weight limit for vehicles with harvest permits 10 percent from 50,000 to 55,000 pounds.

It's an issue many counties have fought for years, balancing the economic impact of timber and agriculture operations in their counties with the damage heavy trucks, especially logging, gravel and some farm vehicles, do to county roads.

While the proposal was approved unanimously by the Senate Agriculture Committee, Turner-Ford thinks it'll face more scrutiny when it gets to the Transportation Committee.

"This has come up before and the legislators haven't approved it. I don't think they will this time," Clay County Supervisor Luke Lummus said.

Turner-Ford said some options that might be attached to the measure include requiring heavier vehicles to post road bonds or establishing an approval and notification process for counties. Some counties already have such requirements as allowed under current state laws.

"I think both sides can win. We may need to give the supervisors a little more teeth than they have now," Younger said.

But Clay County Supervisor R.B Davis warned those measures can have negative consequences.

"If they have to post a bond or incur more expenses, the haulers are just going to pass that on to the farmers or the companies. We're all going to have to pay for it someone. It's a double-edged deal," Davis said.