As the crossroads of America, Oklahoma’s roads get a high volume of commercial truck traffic. The problem is that a lot of those trucks are illegal.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission transportation division’s automated ports of entry can more efficiently monitor that traffic and inspectors penalize drivers of overweight vehicles. The agency’s inspectors are limited in their oversight, in part because they don’t have enough employees to staff those entryways around the clock, said Mark Willingham, deputy general counsel for the agency’s judicial and legislative services division.
The Journal Record reports that there are about 4,100 commercial vehicles that enter Oklahoma daily, and that’s expected to increase to about 7,000 by 2045. The new ports of entry are designed to accommodate the increase and are built to last 50 years.
Keeping an eye on overweight vehicles is critical to road safety. A single, five-axle truck that’s at the legal limit of 80,000 pounds with weight evenly distributed does as much damage as up to 10,000 passenger vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That can shorten the life span of a road designed to last 20 years to just seven.
Overweight trucks can cause an exponentially greater amount of road damage, and the inspectors will fine drivers with loads that are too heavy. Fines are capped at $500. But inspectors have authority to impound the vehicle if it’s so overweight that it’s unsafe on the roads.
The commission operates four automated ports of entry and five weigh stations. The entry ports have weigh stations that can give a driver a bypass signal if there are no issues, increasing the number of vehicles the agency can monitor. If there are potential issues, the automated scales detect if the vehicle is the proper weight and the weight is properly distributed.
Agency staff members recorded 62,334 vehicles in July, issuing 2,951 citations totaling $611,154. About one-third of the citations were for overweight vehicles, accounting for half of all the citation bonds. Fewer than 5 percent of vehicles driving through entry ports received overweight citations, which is fairly standard, Willingham said.
However, there could be more overweight trucks on the road. Some truckers know how to avoid the entry ports. The agency’s infrastructure could accommodate more oversight, but it lacks a critical component, Willingham said.
“We would like to run the ports of entry 24-7,” he said. “Commercial truck traffic operates 24-7; we just don’t have the staff.”
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