North Carolina bill to governor; would ease length limits on some roads

| 7/17/2008

The North Carolina General Assembly has approved a bill that soon could allow longer tractor-trailers on more roads throughout the state.

State law now allows 53-foot trailers on 5,600 miles of interstates and designated highways. Trucks are limited to 48-foot trailers on all other roadways.

The Senate voted 43-1 Wednesday, July 16, to sign off on changes to a bill that would increase the length of trailers allowed on the state’s primary roads to 53 feet. From the main roads, trucks would be allowed to travel up to three miles on their tributaries.

On Tuesday, July 15, the House approved the bill on a 101-10 vote. The measure – SB1695 – now moves to Gov. Mike Easley’s desk. If signed into law, it would take effect Sept. 1.

Advocates for the change say it would bring the state’s “antiquated” law up to date with the standard length of trailers in the trucking industry. Others say the current size restrictions make it nearly impossible to make deliveries and pickups at businesses without risking tickets.

Critics say they are concerned about how many wrecks would result from lifting restrictions on tractor-trailers.

To address those concerns, an amendment made to the bill would make it easier for the North Carolina Department of Transportation to place restrictions on certain sections of roads if it found that they were particularly dangerous.

The previous version of the bill allowed the DOT to close routes to trucks after a safety study and a written report to lawmakers. The current version would allow engineers to close roads and report the closings later.

Another provision in the bill from Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, would allow cotton trucks to weigh up to 50,000 pounds on roads built only for lighter vehicles. Those trucks now are limited to 44,000 pounds.

The exception would be applied annually from Sept. 1 to March 1.

To view other legislative activities of interest for North Carolina in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor