More than 2,000 bridges on Mississippi state highways and country roads have posted weight limits — signs that most drivers pay little or no notice.
But, says Willie Huff, director of enforcement for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, as harvest season nears and grain and module trucks will be running 24/7, farmers and ginners need to heed those weight limits.
Not doing so could result in fines, or worse, an accident with extensive, expensive liability.
Example: “We had an overweight truck cause an old wooden bridge to collapse. It’s going to cost the truck’s owner $350,000 to replace the bridge.”
And says Huff, “Imagine if your truck caused damage to a bridge and as a result a school bus full of kids had an accident, or a family driving along in their car. I don’t think you want to assume a risk like that by running an overweight truck across one of these bridges.”
As of July 30, he said at the annual joint meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and the Delta Council’s Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee, there were 190 posted bridges on state routes and about 2,000 on county roads.
“You need to be aware of these,” he says, “and you need to emphasize to all your drivers that they need to pay attention to the bridge posting signs.”
Bridge postings throughout the state are updated daily and can be checked on the department’s Web site, http://www.gomdot.com.
Huff says larger weight limit signs are being posted for these bridges and that many will also have advance warning signs regarding limits.
“We’re charged with protecting this infrastructure and the safety of those who travel over these bridges,” he says. “The best way not to get stopped is to not be overweight.”
Last year, Huff says, “There was a big move to raise the weight limit for log trucks to 88,000 pounds, which would also be applicable to harvest permits. Some 17,000 trucks would be eligible for this weight increase — but at the same time, we’d see probably another 1,900 bridges in the state with weight limit postings.”
With a significant reduction in tax revenues due to fewer miles driven by the motoring public, the state has less money to maintain roads and bridges, Huff says. The problem is compounded because asphalt and other materials are considerably more expensive.
“We realize you need to move your farm products in a timely, efficient manner, or it has a negative impact on your business, but at the same time our personnel have to enforce rules that are in place to protect this infrastructure.”
Huff reminds farmers and ginners that, prior to putting trucks on the road, they need to be sure harvest permits are up to date and that trucks which may not have been used for several months need to be inspected to be sure they meet required safety regulations.
“If you want to get several trucks together in your area, we’ll be glad to come out and check them out to be sure they’re in acceptable condition,” he says. “Just give us a few days notice.”
Vehicle tags need to be up to date and the current harvest permit needs to be in the truck, Huff says.
Anyone employing out-of-state contractors needs to be sure their vehicles are in compliance with Mississippi tag and fuel apportionment regulations, he notes. Such vehicles must have IFTA stickers or buy fuel in Mississippi.
And, he cautions, “Don’t run dyed diesel in these trucks — it could result in a significant fine.”