Foes of bill to raise truck weight limits raise safety concerns

The state House is considering a Senate bill that would allow trucks hauling poultry, other livestock and agricultural products to carry 88,000 pounds instead of the current 80,000. The Kentucky Ambulance Providers Association, the state school-bus association and some law-enforcement groups are fighting the bill, which they say could be heard by the House Transportation Committee this week.

The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks said in a news release that Senate Bill 44 “will endanger Kentucky motorists, speed up deterioration of roads and bridges and impose new burdens on taxpayers. Tom Adams, president of the ambulance lobby, said emergency personnel “see the negative impact of big rigs firsthand. In the very recent past, one of my ambulances was struck by a semi-trailer truck that was unable to stop at the scene of a crash on the interstate. We don’t want emergency responders or the public contending with even heavier, 88,000-pound trucks.”

Police officers say safety is their primary concern. “There were more than 2,500 large-truck collisions in 2012, and 82 people lost their lives, so loading up to four more tons onto trucks makes them even more dangerous to motorists,” said Tim Hazlette, chief of the Campbellsville Police Department and a former state trooper. “Some business interests hope to haul their loads at reduced prices, but the expense to public safety must be considered.”

In addition to the ambulance group, CABT members in Kentucky are the Kentucky Association of Pupil Transportation; the state, Bluegrass and Louisville FOP lodgesthe Kentucky Constables Association, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.

Some other states have passed such bills, some with lesser increases. The Kentucky bill passed the Senate 35-3; voting against it were Sens. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville; Brandon Smith, R-Hazard; and Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg.

Jamie Fepke, president and CEO of the state’s main trucking lobby, the Kentucky Motor Transport Association, said it does not have a position on the bill, which is being pushed by the poultry industry. He said poultry facilities often lack scales and incorrect weight estimates can put trucks over the limit. “This doesn’t mean that people are automatically going to add 8,000 pounds,” he said. Trucks can handle 88,000 pounds; the questions are, is the truck maintained, are the drivers trained?”

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