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Trucks are not breaking any rule on U.S. 522

March 14, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Pass-through trucks traveling U.S. 522, the main thoroughfare in Berkeley Springs, are legal and not overweight, according to three West Virginia Public Service Commission transportation division officers.

The officers attended a recent Bath Town Council meeting at Mayor Susan Webster's request.

Webster said the issue is whether weight restrictions were being enforced on trucks using U.S. 522 and whether weigh stations were needed. She asked them to speak about regulations for oversized vehicles and trucks carrying hazardous materials.

Ernest George, a motor carrier enforcement supervisor, said West Virginia follows federal safety regulations for commercial motor vehicles. He said the officers check for proper documentation from the driver and make sure the trucks are safe.

Edward Saville, a motor carrier weight enforcement officer, said weigh stations will not deter trucks from using U.S. 522.

He checks trucks coming through town a couple of days a week, and he said since the W.Va. Legislature changed weight laws, only "one in 20,000" might be overweight.

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Saville said there are different weight restrictions for different size trucks. A tractor-trailer weight limit is 88,000 pounds, but the surrounding states' weight limit is 80,000 pounds. He said 40 percent of the tractor-trailers are empty. "Overweight is basically nonexistent," he said.

He said truckers are saving 27 miles by getting off Interstate 81 and using U.S. 522. Saville said Interstate 81 is "like a racetrack" and that's why the truckers are using U.S. 522.

Saville said trucks carrying oversized loads must have a state permit to travel U.S. 522. West Virginia requires two escorts, one in front and one behind, on two-lane roads. The permits allow oversized loads to travel during daylight hours only, he said.

Brock Vanorsdale, a motor carrier enforcement officer, said most hazmat trucks stay on interstates.

"There's not a lot going through here," he said. He said other than local suppliers like Blue Flame and Thompson Gas, to which the law does not apply, "none will be found here; the federal regulations are stringent."

George said only minimum rules are broken. When asked if speeding or tailgating can be enforced, he said it was, and "safety is our probable cause."

The Town of Bath is the local government inside Berkeley Springs.

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