November 9, 2009 in City

Big rigs’ heavy loads draw hefty citations

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Mike Prager photo

Cpl. Bob Sola of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office stands outside his vehicle, which carries scales for commercial vehicles. Sola issued a $14,000 ticket last week for an overweight load.
(Full-size photo)

Spokane sheriff’s Cpl. Bob Sola was pretty sure the truck he spotted crossing the Greene Street Bridge in east Spokane last Monday was overloaded.

He was surprised at just how overloaded.

After stopping the driver and setting up his portable scales, he discovered the truck and low-boy trailer were 57,600 pounds over the gross weight allowed.

The fine: $14,000.

While that may sound like a lot of weight and money, law officers last week said they have been issuing fines of several thousand dollars to truckers or their companies on a regular basis.

Officials are concerned about the cumulative damage the overweight trucks are causing to roads and bridges in the Spokane region, and both Spokane police and county sheriff’s deputies have been assigned to weight-safety patrols on local streets and roads.

The problem, officers said, is most commonly found in the construction industry.

On Thursday, a truck from Sandpoint carrying a crane to the north Spokane freeway project was stopped by a city officer and issued a $6,800 overweight citation. The load was 32,600 pounds over.

Five other citations were issued by the same officer on Thursday, Sola said.

On Friday, a Washington State Patrol trooper pulled over a truck for being overweight and discovered that the driver was under the influence of intoxicants, officers said.

Last Monday’s incident in east Spokane involved a low-boy carrying an excavator belonging to Eller Corp., a contractor based at Newman Lake.

The truck scaled out at 163,100 pounds, even though the Greene Street Bridge has a 72,000-pound weight restriction, Sola said. Officers did not issue a ticket for the bridge violation, which could have added another $400 to the fine.

They also did not add up weight violations for each of the individual tires or axle-tire pairs, which could have brought the fine to as much as double the $14,000, he said.

A spokeswoman at the Eller Corp. office said it was not a good day for the crew. A fill-in driver was behind the wheel, she said.

Sola said the truck crew could have reduced its load by not carrying so much equipment at one time. The vehicle had a county permit to carry extra weight, but the violation nullified the permit.

Overweight trucks are a major cause of road deterioration, said Howard Hamby, pavement manager for Spokane County.

He said the weight can break or deform pavement, particularly on older roads with shallow roadbeds. “You get them on a county road, and these things absolutely destroy it,” he said.

Damaged pavement is a safety hazard.

“Our mission is not to write tickets. Our mission is to gain compliance,” Sola said.

Five Mile project at critical stage

It’s coming down to the wire for a major widening of Five Mile Road west of Austin Road in northwest Spokane.

Paving on the $6.1 million project began Thursday and caused a temporary closure from Ash to Wedgewood streets.

Base paving on the rest of the project is slated for completion next Monday. If crews run out of time to complete the paving this fall, the newly widened street will be opened to traffic during the off-season until crews can return to complete the job in the spring, a city spokeswoman said last week.

Leaf cleanup under way

Leaf cleanup has started in Spokane Valley, where crews are working in neighborhoods that are lined with trees, a spokeswoman said.

Spokane crews started clearing leaves in northwest Spokane last week.

Kettle Falls focuses on pedestrians

Kettle Falls is getting a new look along U.S. Highway 395.

The city is the lead agency to improve pedestrian safety by constructing a separated sidewalk, curb and stormwater infiltration area on the south side of the highway from the eastern city limits to Juniper Street, according to Al Gilson of the state Department of Transportation.

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