Georgia truck weight issue still looms in legislature

- For the last few years, legislation has been bouncing around Georgia  to increase the maximum weight of trucks on the state's highways.

Right now,18-wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, but part of the trucking industry is lobbying to raise that to a little more than 88,000 pounds.

The Georgia Forestry Association has been lobbying for the bill,  for the timber industry to stay competitive in the southeast. Meanwhile, AAA is coming forward to oppose raising the truck weight limits in Georgia. They say, your safety is their reason why.

Sadly, we've seen a lot of wrecks involving tractor trailers on Georgia roads. No one can forget the horrible images from last April on I-16. Seven Georgia Southern nursing students were in two cars, waiting on one tractor trailer crash to clear, when they were struck from behind by another one. Five young women died.

"In most cases, it's the occupants in the vehicle that loses their lives," says AAA spokesman Garrett Townsend. AAA says in 2013, 163 people were killed in wrecks with large trucks and most of the victims were in the smaller vehicles.

"There is interest in increasing the truck weights allowed in the state of Georgia. Right now the allowance is 80,000. The proposal is to increase it to slightly over 88,000.

The Georgia Forestry Association is one organization lobbying for the legislation, in part to stay competitive with other southern states. They issued us a statement saying, "House Bill 411 is important for Georgia's forestry community. The initiative to increase the allowable weight on Georgia roads would provide much needed parity with surrounding states for the forestry supply chain while decreasing the frequency of trucks on the road, which would provide both economic and safety benefits."

"If this legislation comes through, it's not only going to affect South Georgia, it's going to affect Metro Atlanta as well," says Townsend.

This comes after state lawmakers recently green lighted nearly a billion dollars in transportation funding to fix some of our roadways. "We certainly don't want to add increased weight, particularly right now when we're in the process of really improving the infrastructure," he adds.

And AAA says Georgia drivers agree with them. "Our recent survey said about 4 of our 5 Georgia voters are opposed to increased truck weights and about 84 percent were in favor of increased fines for those that don't follow those guidelines," Townsend says.

The Georgia Motor Trucking Association isn't taking a position on the bill. They say it's really meant for specific types of trucks, like logging trucks, and not the trucking industry as a whole. All three organizations tell me the bill is all but dead for this legislative session, however, they expect it to return next year.

The following is a more lengthy statement from The Georgia Forestry Association:
House Bill 411 is an important initiative for Georgia's forestry community. Both Florida and Alabama allow weights up to 88,000lbs., which negatively impacts our state's landowners, haulers and forest product mills by placing Georgia grown wood at a competitive disadvantage when hauling across state lines. In addition, increasing truck weights will reduce the frequency of log trucks on the road which will be a benefit to public safety. Though HB 411 will not pass during this legislative session, we hope to use the balance of the year to educate legislators and community stakeholders on the economic and safety benefits of higher truck weights and the importance of a vibrant future for Georgia's forest product industry.

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