Companies responsible for overweight trucks

| 8/27/2004

Trucking companies, not just drivers anymore, can face civil and criminal citations in South Dakota if law enforcement officials find a truck operating overweight.

The South Dakota Supreme Court issued its opinion Wednesday, Aug. 25, stating that owners, not just the drivers, of overweight vehicles are liable for the trucks’ operation.

The decision came in on an appeal by Myrl & Roy’s Paving of Sioux Falls, which was charged and later convicted with numerous overweight truck violations, after a company driver was caught Aug. 17, 2001, hauling an overweight load of asphalt mix.

The essence of court’s opinion centers around the South Dakota statutes that make operating an overweight vehicle the offense and levies penalties for violating the laws. The opinion essentially states that more than the driver can be involved in the operation of the truck.

“We believe the manner in which the statutes establish liability suggest the legislature intended for [the statutes] to apply to the owners of overweight vehicles as well as drivers,” Judge David Gilbertson wrote in the court’s opinion.

Gilbertson explained that the South Dakota statutes in question simply prohibit vehicles from “operating” with excessive weight. He wrote that the statute imposes liability on any person convicted of the “operating” offense.

After reviewing the statute, Gilbertson said the court found that owners act through their employees.

“… the facts in this case show it was logical for the state to focus upon Myrl & Roy’s,” Gilbertson wrote.

Gilbertson referred to the company’s role in the events that led up to the company being cited for the overweight truck.

Jericho Dede, the driver of the truck was in line at an asphalt mixing plant. The driver whose truck had just been loaded decided that his truck was overweight. A Myrl & Roy’s manager ordered the excess mixture be offloaded into Dede’s truck.

Dede’s truck then went through the loading process for a full load of asphalt mix, on top of the extra that had already been loaded. Dede declined to be weighed and left the facility. He was later stopped by law enforcement officials, who cited Myrl & Roy’s for the truck operating overweight limits.

“We determined that the statute applied to both owners as well as drivers of an offending vehicle,” Gilbertson wrote in the opinion. “Central to our decision was the fact that it was ‘the employer’s negligence that caused’ the violation.”

Gilbertson pointed at the manager’s direction to load a portion of asphalt mix into Dede’s truck before it passed under the silos to receive its own load. Gilbertson also noted Myrl & Roy’s lack of a policy requiring its drivers to weigh their vehicles before traveling on public roads.

– by Jami Jones, Feature Editor