The coal industry compromise on overweight coal trucks was rejected
Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee. Delegates Bill Stemple
(D-Calhoun) and Larry Faircloth (R-Berkley) offered the coal interests
compromise version, which would have raised the maximum weight limit for
hauling from 65,000 pounds to 126,000 pounds, which included a five
They argued the compromise weight limit is better than the present
overloading of trucks, ranging from 155,000 to 170,000 pounds. Delegate
Mike Cuputo (D-Marion) called the Stemple-Faircloth amendment "smoke
and mirrors." He said "It is bad public policy," with the amendment
subsidizing the coal industry at the expense of West Virginia taxpayers.
Caputo said "It is time we send a message to the industry."
The committee rejected the Stemple-Faircloth version 16-9.
Caputo's proposed bill was then approved by the committee. It would
increase the penalties for overweight trucks by five times, and would keep
the current weight limits of 80,000 pounds on interstate highways and
65,000 pounds on state roads. The passage of the bill has a long way to go,
and legislative watchers give it a slim chance.
Cuputo has passionately argued for the safety of coalfield residents, eleven
who have been killed by coal trucks in the past several months, dozens of
others injured, some permanently. The overweight coal trucks, mostly
ignored by law enforcement for several years, have been a controversial
issue in the legislature.
The issue was being discussed last week in the legislature as a coal truck
and van wrecked in Kanawha County, and the occupants had to be cut from
the vehicle. Investigators said the coal truck would not pass safety
standards and was likely overloaded.
The shadow of the Buffalo Creek flood that killed 125 people 30 years ago
loomed over the current discussion. State government failed to hold Pittson
Coal accountable for their collapsed sludge dams in 1972, at which time the
coal company blamed the incident on God.