Fight brewing over trucking enforcement

HOUSTON A Houston city councilman says better enforcement is needed, but the trucking industry is trying to put the brakes on all of this.

Of the 200,000 to 250,000 trucks that haul goods through Houston daily, police say 30 to 50 percent, on average, are overweight. On a spot inspection we witnessed Monday, police weighed a truck that they say was 1,700 pounds heavier than the law allows.

City leaders say all that weight is tearing up streets and curbs. Adrian Garcia, chair of the city council committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, says it's time something is done about it.

"Overweight vehicles need to follow the law and quit damaging the infrastructure, quit putting people's lives in danger," said Garcia.

The larger the load, the longer it takes to stop. The head of the police department's truck enforcement unit says the physics of an overweight load is undeniable.

"You hit your brakes, you're overloaded, and your brakes aren't working," said Sgt. Teresa Curry with the Houston Police Department. "How fast are you going to be able to stop that? You're not."

So Councilman Garcia is asking that the city commit more funds to the truck enforcement unit so it can work more effectively at catching offenders. But he's also proposing a permit that trucking companies can buy that would allow them to legally haul an overweight load.

But the president of the group that represents the trucking industry says a study was done recently by the Port of Houston. That study concluded that requiring a permit would drive shippers to bring their goods in to ports elsewhere, a loss of business estimated at well over one billion dollars.

"It's not an ordinance that the industry can put its arms around," said John Esparza with the Texas Motor Transportation Association. "It costs too much."

Councilman Garcia says he doubts there would be any loss of business as the result of a permit requirement, particularly, he says, from companies already coming into the Port of Houston.

This issue is far from a done deal. The city of Houston is still waiting for a final opinion from the Texas Attorney General's office. It also must go before a city council vote.

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