Big trucks on small roads

Jan 25, 2012

Cattlemen in Missouri are backing a bill in the House that would increase weight limits for hauling livestock on the state's highways. But department of transportation engineers worry heavier trucks would damage already-strained rural roads.

Raising the state's weight limits on highways would give cattlemen in Missouri a competitive advantage, said Jeff Windett, with the Missouri Cattlemen's Association.

"Some of our neighboring states have higher weight restrictions on hauling. If we would increase our weight restrictions, we can add more head, therefore the cost per head would decrease."

That lower transportation cost could mean producers in Missouri get paid more per cow. Windett says a large majority of cattle in Missouri are sent to slaughter in neighboring states, as many as 1.5 million head. 

That's a lot of cows on sometimes small, rural roads. Roads that are already deteriorating.

"We fight every day just to hold roads together," said Don Hillis, assistant chief engineer for MoDOT.

"Those roads, which are typically the lettered routes in Missouri, were taken over in the 50's as gravel roads, and they have no structural strength, which means they're prone to damage from heavy loads."

But Windett argued truckers would make fewer trips if each truckload could carry more weight.

"So the overall impact, our feeling is, it would do less impact to some of those roads," said Windett.

Hillis didn't buy Windett's argument. 

"He's probably correct it would mean less trips," admitted Hillis. "However, it won't change the fact that at times the point-load, which is going down into the pavement, is going to be much more. And it's just gonna take that thin pavement and it's just going to push it out and rut it."

The bill was presented yesterday before the House Agriculture Policy Committee by Representative Jason Smith, Republican from Salem, Mo. It would raise the maximum load for agricultural hauling on state highways from 80,000 pounds to 85,000.