Activity at the Kentucky statehouse is intended to benefit certain overweight vehicles and to help farmers.
Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill to add feed haulers to the list of loads permitted to top the 80,000-pound threshold on two-lane and four-lane state highways.
State law already permits a 10 percent weight tolerance for loads that include fill dirt and rock, coal, concrete, solid waste, livestock, and farm crops. Affected loads are not permitted on interstate highways.
Previously HB174, the new law adds trucks hauling feed for livestock or poultry.
The change also permits livestock and agriculture haulers to exceed the gross weight provisions by four tons to make their first stop.
Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said the changes are necessary to combat losing some of Kentucky’s poultry industry to other states.
“It’s a competitive market out there and we have to compete with other states,” Hornback said on the Senate floor.
Advocates add that the change, which benefits companies such as Tyson Foods, will result in fewer truck trips and improve road safety.
Critics have cautioned the weight limits are in place for a reason and that heavier trucks cause problems for safety and road wear.
The bill received unanimous consent on the Senate floor. House lawmakers voted in favor 81-13.
A separate bill halfway through the statehouse would permit trucks hauling aluminum, or other metal commodities, to weigh 50 percent more. Specifically, HB184 would authorize the loads to weigh up to 120,000 pounds.
Fine amounts for violating the weight rule would also be increased to as much as $500.
The House voted 64-27 to advance the bill that would also remove the 150-mile restriction on heavier loads.
Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro, said the bill is intended to accommodate growing industry in the state. She added that Kentucky has surrounding states that already offer 120,000-pound permits.
“One of the major reasons this bill was brought forward is to bring balance to our state, especially when we compete across state lines,” Miles said during House floor discussion.
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, spoke in opposition to the bill. He cited concerns about highway and bridge deterioration.
“We all know that roads deteriorate more rapidly the heavier the weight on the roads.”
Miles countered that the additional permit requests would boost revenue for the state’s road fund to cover road repairs.
Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, said it is not fair to say that Kentucky is an outlier in the way vehicles are permitted. Instead, she said the state would be better served to consider safety first.
“Any notion that additional fees generated by these overweight truck permits would offset the extra wear and tear on our roads is absurd,” Overlay said.
Miles maintains that the additional axle that would be necessary to accommodate the heavier loads would result in less deterioration to roadways.
The bill has moved to the Senate Transportation Committee.
Another House-approved bill covers the transportation of farm equipment.
State law now requires large equipment, including farm tractors, to have outer wheels removed from the axles and transported separately.
HB265 would expand the state’s definition of non-divisible loads to include transportation of farm equipment.
Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, said the change would save farmers and equipment implementers time and money.
House lawmakers approved the bill on a 95-2 vote. The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Kentucky, click here.