'Shall' saves the day

Published:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher earned deserved praise when his administration began to crack down aggressively on coal trucks carrying more than the allowed maximum of 126,000 pounds.

The overweight trucks amounted to monstrous death traps on wheels, and they were responsible for pulverizing roads and highways they traveled over throughout the state. That, of course, was a cost to the taxpayers no matter whether they lived in the coalfields or not.

It seemed, however, that a little-known exemption in a 1986 state law that set the 126,000-pound maximum weight would undermine that entire enforcement effort. The law appeared to permit yet another 20,000 pounds to be carried on a truck that added an additional axle.

Fewer than 30 state permits for the heavier trucks had been issued by the Transportation Cabinet when the loophole became known.

Fortunately, however, the attorneys gave a close reading of that 20-year-old weight limit statute and found a way to nullify the loophole. The law reads that the states weight limit for coal trucks shall be 126,000. That wonderful verb shall strikes again.

As it is coal trucks are allowed to carry heavier cargo than any other truck in Kentucky 46,000 pounds or 23 tons heavier than the 80,000-pound limit for other trucks.

But just as too many coal truck owners flaunted the weight limit for years, some believed they could get away legally with adding another 10 tons with the addition of a new axle.

State highway and vehicle enforcement officials met here Monday and, with that wonderful shall as their guide, announced no further permits for heavier trucks with new axles will be issued, and those already approved will not be renewed when they expire in April.

It seems to us that it also is a good time for the administration and General Assembly to take a thorough look at that 1986 weight limit statute with an eye toward revising the limit downward. State road building and repair funds are scarce as it is, with more demand than money available.

Its ridiculous to continue allowing nearly 3,000 permitted coal trucks carrying 63 tons to pulverize Kentuckys roads day after day, year after year.

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