Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Detours Seen with Old-Bridge Weight Limits New Law Triggers Truckers' Concern

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Detours Seen with Old-Bridge Weight Limits New Law Triggers Truckers' Concern

Article excerpt

ALBANY -- Plans to reduce weight limits on 164 old bridges in Georgia have raised concerns among truckers who will have to lighten their loads or take long detours.

The new weight limits, which take effect July 1, will affect all large commercial trucks, from dump trucks to fuel tankers.

"Folks don't realize it, but this could have an impact on whether there's gas at the gas station," said Ed Crowell, president of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association in Atlanta.

Steve Henry, state maintenance engineer with the Department of Transportation, said truckers who serve the kaolin and timber industry have expressed the most concern.

The bridges in question were built between 1940 and 1960 using H-shaped, 10-inch steel piles for support. They met the standards then.

In 1995, the Federal Highway Administration required all states to evaluate their bridges using the latest design standards. In that analysis, Georgia DOT officials determined that the H-piles were not strong enough to bear the 40-ton weight limit of modern trucks.

The new weight restrictions will limit two-axle trucks to 15 tons, three-axle tandem trucks to 27 tons and four-axle log trucks to between 30 and 33 tons, depending on the bridge.

Some loggers may have to take detours that will add 50 to 75 miles to each of their trips to the pulp and paper mills, said Joe Allen, executive director of the Southeastern Wood Producers Association. The Hilliard, Fla., group represents 700 loggers in Georgia and Florida.

"This is going to put a tremendous hardship on the whole industry," Allen said. "Our pay is based on the weight of a truck at the mill. When you have to drop weight, it's not economical."

For long-haul drivers, 50 to 75 miles isn't much, Allen said, but it would mean a significant loss for loggers.

"We burn a lot of fuel and put a lot of wear and tear getting to the mill," he said. "It's going to put a ... burden on the timber industry in the state and we are the largest industry."

Many of the damaged bridges are on major state roads and highways, but none of them are on interstates.

Transportation officials are aware of the possible disruptions the bridge limits could cause. …

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