Kentucky House rejects bill for heavier trucks

| 3/11/2005

Two weeks after easily passing the Kentucky House, a bill that would have allowed more trucks to exceed the 40-ton weight limit on roads in the state was rejected by the samelawmakers.

The 50-33 vote, which occurred March 8, came after the Senate Transportation Committee agreed to exempt Louisville and Lexington from the “overweight truck bill.” The Senate had passed the bill 23-12 hours earlier, with little debate.

Many House lawmakers explained after the vote that attitudes recently changed as they learned more about the bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Howard Cornett, R-Whitesburg, the bill would have allowed trucks filed with various natural resources, including sand, oil and gravel, to haul up to 60 tons.

Kentucky law governing truck weight limits has been on the state’s books since 1986, when the General Assembly granted a special privilege to coal trucks to surpass the 40-ton limit on certain roads designated for heavier weights.

The bill was initially presented as necessary to ward off a lawsuit brought by a Pike County, KY, gravel hauler challenging the two-tiered weight limit system. Lawmakers were also told it was strictly a rural issue.

Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said the House’s change of heart from last month’s vote of 56-31 in favor of the measure primarily reflected the realization that the trucks wouldn’t necessarily be confined to designated roads in the mountains of eastern and western Kentucky.

“The big issue was that most of us were told that it really didn’t impact those of us in central Kentucky or in the urban areas,” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Damron was one of several no-shows for this week’s vote but said he had intended to reverse his original vote in favor of the bill.

Opponents questioned how much the measure would ultimately cost the state. Heavier trucks would likely cause roads to dilapidate more quickly, some said.

Lawmakers also questioned whether heavier trucks would pose a safety hazard to other motorists. Heavier trucks would jeopardize public safety for different reasons, including longer braking distances, opponents said.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher had also raised concerns about the impact of heavier trucks on public safety, road conditions and local decision-making.