Georgia Senate backs higher truck weights

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would temporarily allow heavier trucks on Georgia roads.

State law limits trucks to 80,000 pounds, though vehicles carrying certain products are allowed to weigh up to 84,000 pounds. House Bill 189 would double that variance for vehicles carrying forestry and agricultural products, allowing them to weigh up to 88,000 pounds.

HB 189 would only apply to state and county roads. Interstate highways fall under control of the federal government, which limits vehicles to 80,000 pounds.

Supporters say the measure would allow businesses to ship their goods more efficiently at a time when inflation is high and truck drivers are scarce. Critics say heavier trucks would lead to more traffic fatalities and cost taxpayers billions of dollars more for road maintenance.

HB 189 has divided lawmakers and morphed several times. The Georgia House narrowly approved a version that would have allowed trucks carrying a larger variety of products to weigh up to 88,000 pounds.

The Senate version applies only to trucks carrying forestry and agricultural products. It would allow local police to enforce weight restrictions on bridges — something only the state Department of Public Safety can do now. And the bill would sunset the higher maximum weight in July 2024.

That would give lawmakers time to find a permanent compromise on truck weights. It also would allow them to reach a consensus on a related issue — how to pay for billions of dollars of road and rail improvements that a legislative committee says are needed to accommodate booming freight traffic.

“We want to have a serious conversation about how we fund our roads going forward,” Majority Leader Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, told the Senate.

HB 189 passed the Senate by a vote of 44-5. It now returns to the House.