Bigger rig trucks for Georgia highways on the move in 2023 state Legislature

Georgia State Capitol on mostly sunny day

by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

March 7, 2023

Rep. Spencer Frye, a Democrat from Athens, said Tuesday that the frets over the safety perils of bigger rig trucks on Georgia roads are likely overblown.

Frye backed a bipartisan split measure sponsored by Republican Stephen Meeks passed by a 93-81 vote, which would extend higher weight limits for commercial trucks imposed by executive orders related to the pandemic and inflation.

House Bill 189 was narrowed from covering commercial vehicles of any type to only affecting truckers hauling agricultural and forestry cargo like timber, concrete, solid waste, cotton, and animal feed.

Those in favor argue that federal permits are available for trucks bringing in products from the state’s ports that weigh up to 100,000 pounds. According to House Bill 189, agricultural and logging tractor trailers would not pay any extra penalty until the load exceeds 93,000 pounds.

“Every single thing that you’re looking at touching, feeling, putting in your mouth right now has been brought to you by a truck,” Frye said. “If you’ve been here for a minute, you will recognize that we act like Chicken Little an awful lot and (that) the sky is falling.”

In anticipation of the bill’s passage, the state budget includes $50 million for road and bridge repairs. This funding, however, is just a drop in the hog feed bucket as the state transportation department estimates that doubling the number of bridges that cannot carry heaviest loads would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs. 

As a result, more trucks would be forced to take longer detours on local and county roads putting other drivers in danger. In addition, the department of public safety warned that heavier trucks would cause an increase in commercial vehicle accidents and fatalities.

Twice as many bridges that cannot carry heavy loads under the bill could be spared wear and tear, forcing more trucks to detour through city and county roads.

Rep. Darlene Taylor, a Thomasville Republican, says the bill will have devastating effects on roads, especially county roads and bridges where tractor trailers are most likely to cause damage. 

 “These communities do not have the resources to maintain or continue to fix road abuse,” the Republican said. “Do you realize these weights are not even allowed on federal interstate highways, just city, county roads, mostly rural communities that can least afford it.”

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