AMENDMENT TO HOUSE BILL 8 DOESN'T FIX TROUBLED BILL
The Senate Committee Substitute does not fix the dangers to the public and damage to state, county and city roads that will be caused by increasing truck weight limits for noncoal minerals and other "natural resources" under HB 8.
Though Section 3(1) of the amended bill seeks to limit expansion of the haul road system by linking new road addition to coal haulage in the previous year, sixty-six (66) counties in the state have roads that are part of the extended weight coal haul road system and even under the amended bill loads with the heavier gross weights of 126,000 pounds (63 tons) of sand, gravel, rock and other natural resources can be hauled on any of those roads, resulting in more traffic fatalities and more injuries when accidents occur, and more road and bridge repair costs to the Road Fund.
Does the amended HB 8 allow new roads to be added to the extended weight coal haul road system for other natural resources?
Yes. Even though Section 3(1) of the amended bill attempts to limit expansion of the extended weight system by providing that the tonnage of coal hauled in the prior year defines whether the road is in the extended weight system, while then allowing the other natural resources to be hauled heavier once the road is in the extended weight coal haul road system, Section 7(4) allows the Highway Commissioner to add new local roads into the extended weight system if he determines that local government is unreasonable in not entering into a cooperative agreement allowing a company to haul heavier sand, gravel, rock, and other noncoal loads on local roads in order to get to the extended weight system.
Doesnt the language in Section 3(9) allow counties and cities to prevent new coal haul roads from being added if they are a hazard?
No. Under both the existing law and amended bill, adding a new road to the extended weight coal haul road system is mandated if that road had 50,000 tons of coal hauled in the previous year. While Section 3(9) allows counties and cities to pass resolutions and request that certain roads be deleted if the are a hazard, the Secretary is mandated under Section 3(2) to list all roads meeting the tonnage criteria regardless of their potential hazard.
Doesnt the new cooperative agreement and bond requirement in Section 7 protect cities and counties?
No. Section 7(1), for the first time, allows cities and counties to authorize trucks to exceed the applicable 36,000 or 80,000 pound limits, if the applicant wants to haul noncoal minerals at heavier weights in order to access the extended weight coal haul road. While section 7(2) requires such trucks to enter into a cooperative agreement for paying a portion of the costs maintenance and repair of the road, and allows the imposition of a bond to assure that the costs are paid, if the local government refuses to enter into a cooperative agreement for reasons that the Highway Commissioner thinks are not based upon a reasonable standard, the Commissioner can overrule the local government and place the road section into the extended weight coal haul road system!! The amendment and committee substitute dont define what is a reasonable standard, leaving both the local government and Highway Commissioner with no guidance as to when a local government can reasonably refuse to enter into an agreement allowing much heavier loads on its local streets.
Does the amended bill have unintended consequences for the coal industry?
Potentially. Section 7(2) requires that a person who wishes to transport cargo in a vehicle which exceeds the weight limits established by KRS 189.221 to enter into a cooperative agreement for maintenance and repair of the road.
KRS 189.221 applies to any highway, and highway is defined as any public road, street, avenue, alley or boulevard , with no limitation to county or city roads. Thus, while the intent may be to limit the requirement for a cooperative agreement to county or city-maintained roads, the plain language of Section 7(2) does not limit its applicability to a county road or city street as does Section 7(1), creating the possibility that all haulage at the heavier weights, even for coal haulage on the extended weight coal haul road system, would require a cooperative agreement. Ironically, while certainly not the intent of the sponsors that coal trucks enter into cooperative agreements to repair roads within the extended weight coal haul road syetem, the sponsors efforts to allow more heavy trucks to join coal trucks in using these roads while the public picks up the tab for extra repairs and in additional loss of life, the efforts to rehabilitate a bad bill may raise the accountability of coal trucks for their damage.
What is the solution?
Lets study the impacts of broadening the extended weight system, in human and economic terms, before we make an already-troubled system worse.