ATLANTA – The state Senate passed compromise legislation Thursday that would raise legal weight limits on trucks in Georgia carrying certain types of cargo in certain areas of the state.

Capitol Beat News Service
This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

The bill, which originated in the Georgia House of Representatives, cleared the Senate 44-5 after the Senate Transportation Committee had reduced the scope of the measure.

The version of the legislation that passed the House early this month would let commercial trucks exceed the current legal weight limit of 80,000 pounds by 10%, for a total of 88,000 pounds, on roads other than interstate highways, which are subject to federal restrictions.

The bill as originally proposed was scaled back before it even got to the Senate. As introduced, it would have applied to all commercial trucks no matter what they were hauling. The House changed it to allow the additional weight only for trucks carrying logs, agricultural products and livestock, granite, concrete or solid waste.

The Senate then reduced the bill’s scope further by removing granite, concrete, and solid waste from the types of cargo eligible for hauling at 88,000 pounds.

Other Senate changes restrict the weight exemption to trucks hauling loads within 75 miles of the cargo’s point of origin and prohibit trucks above the 80,000-pound weight limit in metro Atlanta.

Georgia farmers and loggers have told lawmakers they need heavier trucks to reduce the number of loads they have to haul.

The agriculture and timber industries have used an executive order Gov. Brian Kemp signed in the early days of the pandemic three years ago allowing heavier trucks to help them stay in business. However, the executive order expired last week.

“I consider this bill to be a lifeline to the people I represent who provide food and fiber to the citizens of Georgia,” Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Chairman Russ Goodman, R-Cogdell, told his Senate colleagues Thursday.

While farmers and loggers have pushed for the bill, representatives of local governments, traffic safety advocates, and the Georgia Department of Transportation have argued a permanent exemption allowing heavier trucks would damage roads and bridges and cause more severe crashes.

“Putting grotesquely overweight trucks on the road is dangerous for all of us,” said Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, who held management positions in several local governments before being elected to the Senate in 2010. “Not only does it destroy roads. It kills people.”

Because of the changes the Senate made to the bill, it now must return to the House. It may take a joint legislative conference committee to work out the two chambers’ differences on the legislation before the General Assembly adjourns for the year next week.

This story available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, an initiative of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams is bureau chief for Capitol Beat News Service, a service of the Georgia Press Education Foundation.