Tougher penalties sought for too-tall trucks in Virginia

| 9/1/2006

If a Virginia state lawmaker gets his way, truckers caught with over-height vehicles at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia would once again have to dig deeper into their pockets.

Heftier fines and warning letters to trucking companies last year helped briefly curtail incidents of too-tall trucks attempting passage in the westbound tube along Interstate 64 near Norfolk, VA. In recent months, however, wayward trucks have been making their way back on to the route, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The result has been more congestion.

To address the issue, Delegate Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, is calling for getting tougher with problem trucks.

Virginia law calls for $500 fines and authorizes judges to add three demerit points to a commercial driver’s license. It takes 18 demerits in one year to trigger a license suspension.

Oder said he wants fines for truckers who ignore height restrictions to be doubled to $1,000 and allow judges to tack on five demerit points.

“For whatever reason, truckers have become accustomed to the fines and the points,” Oder told the newspaper. “Maybe it’s not that important to them. I don’t know, but clearly we have not set the bar high enough.”

Stiffer penalties took effect July 1, 2005, when the fine was increased from $85 to $500 and three demerit points were added to existing deterrent measures.

Signs have been posted on nearby Interstates 564 and 64, which merge to form I-64, to inform truckers about the height restriction. If truckers fail to heed the warnings, a series of four over-height sensors – one about one and three-quarters miles away from the tunnel entrance, one at an inspection station three-quarters of a mile away, another at about a quarter of a mile away, and a fourth close to the tunnel’s mouth – alert a truck over 13 feet 6 inches tall if it attempts to pass.

Truckers that refuse to reroute must be stopped at the tunnel entrance and diverted onto the south island, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The truck is then directed to the eastbound lanes, where traffic must be stopped to turn the truck around. Traffic delays can last several minutes.

Oder said he is working on legislation to hike the penalties for problem trucks that could be considered during the special session on transportation scheduled to begin Sept. 25.