This news story originally provided by
March 2, 2005
Mineral-hauling bill a weighty issue
Critics say raising limit may hurt roads
By Alan Maimon and Elisabeth J. Beardsley
SHELBY GAP, Ky. -- Every time Helen Price backs out of her
driveway, she worries that a 40-ton gravel truck might be coming
around the curve.
"There's so many of them that fly through here," said Price, 53.
"I worry they won't be able to slow down in time if they need to."
Price said she opposes House Bill 8, which would allow trucks
carrying rocks, gravel and other minerals to be 60 tons, or the
weight allowed for coal trucks.
The bill's sponsor said the heavier trucks would be limited to
specially built roads already designated for overweight vehicles.
Critics claim the bill is loose enough to allow such trucks on other
Supporters say the legislature should treat all coal- and
mineral-hauling trucks the same, or the courts could lower the
weight for all payloads, disrupting the coal industry.
They also contend the trucks can carry the new proposed weight
But opponents say heavier trucks would tear up roads and be less
Senate leaders from both parties say they support the bill, which
the House passed Feb. 22 on a 55-32 vote following a spirited
The bill is now in the Senate, where President David Williams
said he supports it for "fairness."
"I believe it's unconstitutional to allow one mineral to haul on
that road and the same weight of another mineral not to haul on it,"
Williams, R-Burkesville, said.
Charles Lovorn, executive director of the Kentucky Association of
Highway Contractors, said the bill would result in heavier -- but
fewer -- trucks on the road.
"That's a positive safety factor," Lovorn said.Experts disagree
on whether heavier trucks take longer to brake to a stop.
The state Department of Vehicle Enforcement, which polices truck
weights, provided information to at least one lawmaker that
indicates heavier loads lengthen stopping distances, Justice Cabinet
spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said. Rep. Ancel Smith, who received that
information, said an 80,000-pound truck moving at 55 mph takes about
300 feet to stop, versus 600 feet for a 126,000-pound truck
traveling at the same speed.
Chris Gilligan, a cabinet spokesman, said he could not comment
further on Smith's information, adding that "the numbers will have
to speak for themselves."
A former coal-hauling truck driver himself, Smith said he's
worried the bill will create trucks that are too heavy to stop in
time for school buses just out of sight around the curves of Eastern
"It's going to cost lives," Smith, D-Leburn, said.
But Kentucky Transportation Center traffic experts said a truck's
ability to stop safely depends on whether it's operating within the
manufacturer's recommended weight limits.
The center, housed at the University of Kentucky, conducted
braking tests for a 1998 report on heavy vehicle accidents, research
engineer Jerry Pigman said.
The tests found no appreciable difference in stopping distances
for well-maintained heavier trucks that stayed within
manufacturer-recommended weight limits, Pigman said.
At 40 mph, an eight-axle truck carrying 80,000 pounds took 108
feet to stop, he said. A truck with a 120,000-pound load took 114
feet to stop at that speed, while a truck with a 150,000-pound load
took 110 feet, he said.