Lighter version of heavier trucks bill moves forward at state Capitol

Tractor trailer trucks move cargo in shipping containers out of the Port of Savannah, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in Savannah, Ga. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

A Georgia Senate committee passed a bill Monday that would allow only certain agricultural and timber trucks to carry two extra tons for up to 75 miles. Those 4,000 pounds would allow those specific trucks to travel with up to 88,000 pounds.

It is a much slimmer version of House Bill 189, which originally would have done an across-the-board increase to a 90,000-pound max.

None of the proposals involve interstate highways, which are regulated by the federal government.

The trucks with the proposed higher weights would not be allowed in Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale Counties.

The overall debate has pitted the Georgia Department of Transportation and local governments concerned about what heavier trucks will mean for Georgia’s roads and bridges against agricultural, timber and other industries that need to transport materials.

Sen. Greg Dolezal, R- Cumming, on Crossover Day at the Georgia State Capitol on March 6, 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Business interests have argued it would mean fewer trucks on the road and driver shortages. Transportation experts have brought up accelerated degradation of roadways and bridges, and challenges with enforcement.

Truckers had been allowed to travel with much heavier loads under executive orders issued by Gov. Brian Kemp, but the last of the orders dealing with supply chain disruptions expired March 11.

During Monday’s hearing, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Greg Dolezal explained why the proposed rules would only last until July 1, 2024.

“We think that we need to have a serious conversation around infrastructure funding in this state. Georgia currently ranks sixth to last in terms of infrastructure funding per road mile. And it’s a similar number when you look at it on a per capita basis,” said Dolezal. “We’re going to get further behind when you consider that a number of states have literally invested billions of dollars of either ARPA funding or their surpluses over the last two years into infrastructure, and we really have not done any of that.”

Both Dolezal and Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch say those conversations will happen over the next year.

HB 189 would allow local law enforcement to enforce truck weights and significant “per pound” fines.

The bill is now in the Senate Rules Committee, waiting to be scheduled for a Senate vote.

If passed in the Senate, it would have to go back to the House for final passage.