One state’s recent announcement of steep price increases for oversize and overweight permits appears to have come with little notice, although truckers with oversize and overweight loads have begun making their voices heard.
David Gorrell noticed a letter from the Ohio Department of Transportation in his mailbox on Oct. 16.
Gorrell, an OOIDA member from Londonderry, OH, hauls 60-foot-long steel beams on his 53-foot step deck trailer. The letter announced that beginning on Oct. 16 – that same day –he would face multiple different price increases for oversize permits.
Gorrell learned that Ohio no longer issues 365-day permits and that single-trip permit fees for oversize or overweight loads are rising from $15 to $86 immediately, then to $143 by March 2009, and $200 by July 2009. The 90-day permit fee jumped from $20 to $306 on Oct. 16, and will rise to $528 in March and $750 in July, which will be 36 times the previous cost.
An official with the Ohio DOT said the agency is conducting an investigation to determine whether its permit fees for oversize and overweight loads are appropriate. The state DOT is scheduled to report the findings to the Ohio General Assembly in February.
Mike Barker, permit supervisor for ODOT, acknowledged that his office had received complaints about the 1,200 percent and higher permit fee hikes and the short notice that trucking and construction companies had received.
“Before, the permits were really quite cheap, and I think industry mostly agreed with that,” Barker told Land Line Magazine. “They’ve gone up pretty steeply, so we’ve had a bit of a backlash on that.”
In addition to individual truck drivers, the Toledo Trucking Association, several agriculture interests, and the city of Toledo have reportedly banded together to protest the massive increases.
Barker said Ohio hadn’t raised its permit fees for overweight and oversized loads since the 1980s, and raised its rates to be more consistent with other states.
Ohio’s oversize permits were among the nation’s lowest before the Oct. 16 change, said Jeni Ruark, who arranges for specific state permits for trucking companies as a permit writer with West Coast Services.
Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas charge the most for overweight permits because those states charge by the mile, Ruark said.
Texas’ fees are among the most expensive for oversize permits, Ruark said, although its $60 single load fees will be surpassed by the $65 fee Ohio will charge in July.
Gorrell said he would have liked more notice before the permit fees increased, but was more upset by the staggering size of the price hikes.
“I am not putting any more duress on the highway than a truck of normal size,” Gorrell said. “They don’t let us out of the steel mill if we’re overweight.”
Barker said he couldn’t say for sure whether the Ohio DOT would allow lower prices for oversize loads compared to overweight permits, even though oversize loads that are less than 80,000 pounds don’t damage highways the way overweight loads do.
“The point you make is well taken; it would seem to be true that he’s not wearing out bridges with overlength loads,” Barker said.
Barker said he did not believe the Ohio DOT was gathering input from truck drivers for its investigation into the state’s permit fees.
Until February, Barker said drivers can continue checking for permit news on the state DOT’s Web site at www.dot.state.oh.us.
Barker said that after ODOT reports to the General Assembly in February, lawmakers are likely to set permanent permit fees themselves, and hinted that some fees could come down.
“They could go down,” Barker said. “It’s possible.”
Gorrell said he won’t hold his breath for a permit price drop.
Instead, he’s decided to drive his I-beam loads around Ohio when possible, even though he takes more time and burns more diesel to do so.
“In my opinion, they saw the truck driver as a way for them to really rake in some bucks with this oversize stuff, and price gouge us,” he told Land Line. “I’m contacting my state representative. This is for nothing more than 4 or 5 feet off the back end of the trailer. This has got me pretty steamed.”
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
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