(02/22/2002)
Delegate Mike Caputo(D) of Marion County, railed at coal interests yesterday in the legislature over their lobbying for high weight limits for coal trucks. "I'm tired of one industry being allowed to shirk the law," he said. Law enforcement has ignored overweight coal trucks for years, allowing them to carry twice the legal limit.

The discussion on the floor came on the heels of an early morning coal truck accident in Kanawha County, where it took over an hour to cut a victim out of a van. No one was killed.

"I'm a little emotional, but I'm dammed tired of it. I think we need to cut to the chase of this issue and decide who we are here to represent, big coal, big money, or people," Caputo said. Eleven West Virginians have died in coal truck accidents in the past several months, and dozens of others have been seriously injured or maimed.

The West Virginia Coal Association wants to raise the weight limits, at least temporarily, from the current legal limit of 65,0000 pounds, to 132,000 pounds. Current trucks overload up to 160,000 pounds. Two bills are currently on the table, but many delegates feel the issue will not be addressed this session.

John Amores (D) from Kanawha said "We don't need this spoon fed to us, but we do need, from the stakeholders, some general series of compromises to give us a sense of direction."

Delegate Cuputo asked what will the union and coal interests say when the coal truck kills a school bus full of kids. "Lets get to the root of the problem. These are violators of the laws of the State of West Virginia." he said.


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