Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement
Coal Trucks Driving Faster With Lighter Loads
A state crackdown on overweight coal trucks has had an unexpected side effect, a state official said.
Greg Howard, commissioner of Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement, said more truckers are exceeding the speed limit.
"We are beginning to get some complaints on speed, and we're addressing those," he said. "Of course, speed is easier to enforce than weigh limits."
Howard said trucks can go faster when they're not bogged down with overweight loads, and some truckers may be taking advantage of that to speed up to haul more loads each day.
Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said speeding among coal truck drivers hauling lighter loads shouldn't have come as a surprise.
"We told them that would happen," Caylor said. "We were worried not just about truckers driving faster but potentially working more hours where you would have the fatigue factor coming into play."
The number of overweight trucks has been drastically reduced in eastern Kentucky since the crackdown began based on the number of violations officers are seeing, Howard said.
"At one time, if we weighed 100 trucks, 99 would be overweight," he said. "Now if we weigh 100 trucks, we might find 10 that are overweight."
Officers began strictly enforcing weight limits in June, sparking intermittent labor strikes by drivers who demanded more money per ton from coal operators to offset financial losses that came with hauling smaller loads.
Truckers complained that they were caught in the middle, risking fines each time they hauled too much coal. Yet, they said they were unable to afford fuel and insurance unless they violated the weight limit.
As a result, coal companies increased the amounts they paid the truckers, and officers began writing citations to coal companies caught overloading coal trucks at their loading facilities.
Howard said the problem of overweight trucks hasn't been entirely solved.
"We have made a big dent in it," he said. "Everybody seems to be playing on the same field for a change."
He said officers are on the lookout for truckers who speed with their smaller loads.
Caylor said speeding in the huge rigs could have dire consequences on eastern Kentucky highways.
"You can't place that blame on the coal operator," he said. "This is something that falls solely on the shoulders of the truckers, and the law needs to be enforced, period."