Fort Fairfield Journal     About Us     Contact Us    Advertising Rates      Subscribe       Distribution       Bible Reference     Our Library


Fort’s Roads Suffer Under Strain of Overweight Trucks


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, May 4, 2011

In the course of their annual operation, Fort Fairfield Public Works (FFPW), every March, posts the towns roads. The posting indicates if your vehicle is over 23,000 pounds and you want to travel on a posted road, there's a criteria of things that you need to do. One of them is to acquire a permit from FFPW.

“Each year I issue these permits to Turner Sanitation and Ed Adams, to allow them to conduct their business. Three oil companies have gotten permission from me,” said George Watson, FFPW director. “On that permission slip I say you do not exceed 32,000 pounds and stay in the center of the road and do not ride the shoulders. All of them so far have done that appropriately.”

However, there are some agricultural trucks, such as potato trucks, using the roads while they are grossly overweight, causing some serious issues to occur. Some of those issues have surfaced on the Hopkins and Green Ridge roads where the pavement has broken up beyond FFPW's ability to salvage it. This is due to the abnormally cold, wet Spring lingering into the planting season with no real warm days to dry out the top soil.

“In the twelve years that I've been Public Works director in Fort Fairfield, we've had more damage done to our roads in two days than I've ever seen before,” said Watson. “It's like if you drove across your lawn right now, it's very soft, if you drove across it you would rut it up. Our roads will not take heavy loads.”

Watson explains that back when our roads were built in the '30s and '40s, they were farmer's roads - they were field roads. “Somebody said let's pave them. There's very little gravel underneath them, they're very spongy. Frost gets in those roads and as it comes out, that's what develops into pot holes. By posting the roads what you've done is say I'm not going to put anything heavy across these roads to help this road heal until the time frame of about mid-May when we pull the signs.”

However, the signs are not being followed and roads are being damaged. “What's going across these roads are agricultural or farmer's trucks. When these roads were built the average farmer had a truck that had 50 barrels of potatoes on it. Today, they're twin screws and hold 200 barrels of potatoes. That particular truck with a tandem axle in the back weighs approximately 57,000 pounds. The posted signs say you can only have 23,000. If it's a tri-axle, which has three sets of wheels, they carry 300 barrels of potatoes and those weigh between 70,000 to 80,000 pounds. Up until this year, it's happened, I've seen it, but we haven't had the breakage that we've had this year. Last year at this time you were actually mowing your lawns because we were playing golf in mid-April. Farmers right now are starting to move their product to cut their seed. Last year it wasn't an issue. This year it's an issue.”

The particular roads that are breaking up prior to this year did not have much activity from a farmer. “But we've had some farmers purchase potato houses. There's one on the Green Ridge Road that was bought by a farmer in the Caribou area so now he's traveling the Green Ridge road, bringing his product in. Last year that road did not see heavy traffic,” explained Watson. “The Hopkins Road potato house was sold. Now they're starting to haul their product out of there and they're using tri-axles. Can I stop them? Yes. Do I want to? No. This is an agricultural community. We all have to get along. There's got to be a happy medium in there somewhere. I'm relying on the town council to tell me where it is.”

The three sections of road on Green Ridge that were tore up, are going to cost the town $10,000 to fix this year, which is 10 percent of FFPW's paving budget. “I have a budget of $100,000 a year for paving roads in Fort Fairfield. I'm going to spend 10 percent of it repairing something that I shouldn't have had to do. I don't know an easy answer.”

The road posting signs are adopted by the Maine Department of Transportation regulations, which established the 23,000 pound weight limit. Most of communities, such as Fort Fairfield, adopt the State's plan. “This is nothing we in Fort Fairfield did that said we want to set the limit at 23,000. The State of Maine set that. When they set it, again, farmers were carrying 50 barrels of potatoes on a truck. Today when you see a potato truck going, it's going to have 200 to 300 barrels of potatoes on it. 300 barrels are 80,000 pounds. Our roads won't take it.”

On Hopkins and Green Ridge roads, it wasn't the hot top that gave out, it was the subsoil that gave out because it was too soft to support the weight of the trucks. “Right now we have contractors that would like to move in and start digging foundations and hauling gravel and I will not allow it. What I can't allow for them, I'm allowing for farmers.”

In the past, there seemed to be a misunderstanding about what trucks, if any, were exempt from the posted weight limit signs. “When I cam on board, I asked how come farmers can haul on posted roads and my crew said they were exempt; they have a perishable product, you can't stop them. If it has an “F” on the license plate, you can't stop a farmer for hauling his crops,” said Watson. “For ten years I operated in that mode. What I've seen happen in ten years is we've gone from single axle to double axle to everybody's running tri-axles now. So I investigated and found out farmers are not exempt. Farmers have to abide by that sign and 23,000 pounds; no matter who it is.”

The old fashioned bulk trucks, when they first came out with single axles, met the 23,000 weight limits when they're loaded. “But they don't have the volume and at $4.00 a gallon for diesel, if you and I were farmers and we had to make it from point A to point B we'd want as much on that truck as we could get; we'd want to watch our costs as well. There's got to be a happy medium in here for our farmers as well as our roads. We all want the farmers to grow in our community, it's just the equipment is getting bigger than our roads can handle.”

Watson says the Green Ridge road is not a patch job. It's going to have to be tore out, squared, have a bed of gravel laid down and pavement put on top of it. “By just paving it, next year we're going to have the same issue. Most State roads were built with 24 inches of gravel in them. They're built for heavy traffic. Ours weren't, but they now have heavy traffic on them and they weren't built for that. These are your roads. If you elect to not do anything about it, so be it. We will just spend our summers fixing roads that are going to continue being broken up.”

“There aren't that many farmers using our roads. We know pretty much who they are on which roads,” said Fort Fairfield Town Manager, Dan Foster. “They need to try to find some way to accommodate the circumstances that we're all having to deal with. George does not want to inhibit their ability to try to be able to make a living, but at the same time they cannot purposefully be destroying the roads because we can't afford it. They have to recognize that there's going to be some accountability if they're going to run that kind of weight on the roads, creating those kinds of problems.”

At the April town council meeting, it was decided to review what other communities are doing to alleviate the problems on their roads with respect to agricultural trucks; check local ordinances to see what options are available to the town; contact haulers to make them aware of issues and try to alleviate the problem without being 'heavy handed.'

“We need to find creative ways of maintaining our roads and letting the farmers get their jobs done, too,” said Foster.



Quality, wooden equipment cases and storage totes

case_1.JPG (71064 bytes)

Made in U.S.A.

trades exclusively in silver

book_satcount_covr_sm.jpg (62425 bytes)

Discussion on Marriage Licenses, Birth Certificates, 501(c)3 churches, Biometrics and more. With index

32 pages               Staplebound

more info