With corn harvest already under way in the southern areas of Mississippi, and harvests for other crops nearing, farmers and commercial haulers need to be aware of posted bridge weight limits and be sure that vehicle harvest permits are up to date.
“There are approximately 220 bridges posted for weight limits on state highways, and another 2,900 on county or city roads,” says Willie Huff, chief of the Mississippi Department of Transportation's Office of Enforcement.
“These weight limits are posted for the safety of the traveling public, and failure to observe them could result in a catastrophic bridge failure, resulting in injury, death, property damage, and disruptions to traffic.”
Higher costs for materials, labor, and energy have put a crimp in the state's construction and maintenance efforts, he told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their annual meeting with the Delta Council's Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee.
“The value we're able to get from the tax dollars allotted for maintaining an aging infrastructure maintenance is less because of these increased costs,” Huff said.
“Our department is charged with protecting these structures to insure the safety of the traveling public and our school children, and our officers will be on the lookout for violations.”
During a typical year, he said, the division assesses 11,000 to 12,000 weight violation penalties.
He said there has been “a big push” in the last year to inspect state bridges and post appropriate weight limits. “After harvest season last year, we had to close a bridge because of deteriorating girders.”
Bridges that are posted have signs showing maximum weight limits and axle configuration limits, Huff noted.
Harvest permits and other permits do not allow a vehicle to exceed the posted bridge limits, even though the roadway itself may have a higher limit.
An “Overload Permit Map” showing posted state highway bridges may be found at www.gomdot.com.
Farmers need to be sure harvest permits are current, Huff said. The harvest permit law allows owners/operators of vehicles used for hauling agricultural products to transport up to 84,000 pounds on state roads. Each vehicle must have a permit.
Harvest permits are not valid on low weight roads or on interstate highways. Violators on interstate highways will be assessed a penalty of 5 cents per pound in excess of 80,000 pounds and 15 cents per pound for weight in excess of 100,000 pounds.
Agricultural products (with the exception of unprocessed forest products) are defined as those produced on the farm and being transported from the farm to market or processing points (cottonseed, regardless of origin, is considered an agricultural product).
Huff said out-of-state haulers should be aware of the need to comply with temporary vehicle tag and fuel requirements. “The fines can be pretty substantial for non-compliance.”