A Mississippi bill regarding increased weight limits on state roads is creating a lot of debate between state officials who oppose the bill and truck drivers who support it.
The House passed Senate Bill 2418, which would increase the weight limit tolerance for harvest permit vehicles and vehicles loading and unloading at state ports. The Senate passed the bill in February. It will take effect July 1 if signed by the governor.
Pros and Cons
Rep. Michael T. Evans, D-Preston, described the proposal as a “working man’s bill” and said letting trucks haul more materials would also put fewer trucks on the road.
“We have to support our industries, and we need to support our truckers and make sure they’re making a living,” Evans said.
Transportation and local officials said that the bill, designed to add more leeway for trucks to haul heavier loads in Mississippi, could further damage the state’s already vulnerable roads. Backers of the bill said it would be a boon to truck drivers and companies that make agricultural products.
MDOT allows trucks to haul 80,000 pounds on all roads and 84,000 pounds with a harvest permit; these rules do not apply to roads designated low weight.
The proposed bill would allow the tolerance for each axle to increase, and suggests raising that tolerance to 10 percent, allowing up to 4,000 pounds on each end instead of 2,000 pounds. This adds up to a total weight of 88,000 pounds allowed on all roads and 92,400 pounds allowed with a harvest permit.
Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, questioned the role of axles to keep weight evenly distributed on a truck.
“You are going to have a whole lot of weight on a much smaller pavement area by increasing the weights on these pull axles,” Evans said. That’s the problem. That’s why we have multi-axles, isn’t it? To spread the weight out. … Now you’re asking us to spread the weight out without adding axles, so it’s going to be destructive to our already crumbling highways, right?”
Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, who represents the commission’s Northern District, also said after the Feb. 27 committee meeting that increasing a vehicle’s axle weight is what damages roads and bridges, rather than the vehicle’s total weight.
Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher shared his concerns about the bill Monday afternoon and how it could affect local infrastructure with Mississippi Now.
The City of Clinton is already dealing with deteriorating bridges, they currently have $2 million set aside from their budget to complete repairs to a bridge on Pinehaven Road, Fisher said they also spent about $38,000 on repairs to a bridge on Cynthia Street, and have recently lowered the weight on a bridge on Kickapoo Road from ten tons to five tons.
To help tackle the cost of the bridge projects, Fisher said the city asked the legislature for a one cent sales tax increase, raising it from seven cents to eight cents.
“This will generate $17,500,000 over five years and we plan to take that money for infrastructure,” Fisher said. “Our plan was to use it for four lane roads and that is our plan but we’re going to need tremendous amounts of money.”