Avoyelles Police Jury asks district attorney to review ‘heavy hauler’ ordinance
While emphasizing there is no intent to restrict business activity or to create a source of revenue, the Avoyelles Police Jury has decided it will adopt an ordinance to regulate logging operators and other “heavy haulers” using the parish roads.
At its July 9 meeting, the jury set aside the proposed road use ordinance for 90 days and sent it to District Attorney Charles Riddle for legal review. to review.
The jury will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at 5 p.m. Sept. 10, prior to the jury’s monthly meeting.
The ordinance could be adopted at the Sept. 5 meeting.
Police Jury President Charles Jones said an attempt to address the issue with a committee that included citizens and representatives of heavy-hauler businesses “never really got off the ground.”
To move the effort off dead-center, Jones met with Parish Engineer Ron Bordelon and Parish Civil Works Director Kevin Bordelon to write an ordinance that address all elements of the issue.
“We have to do something to protect the public’s roads,” Jones said.
Bordelon has said many loggers working in the parish have voluntarily notified him of where they would be working and for how long, and have repaired any damage caused by the large vehicles.
However, there are cases where loggers go in without informing Bordelon, damage the roads and/or drainage ditches, and leave without repairing those damages.
“This is not something new,” Jones said. “All of our neighboring parishes are already doing this.
“It comes down to this,” he continued. “If you destroy something, you are responsible to fix it.”
Louisiana Forestry Association Executive Director Buck Vandersteen was a member of the heavy-hauler study committee.
The LFA represents the interests of the state’s loggers, which he said are not opposed to the interests of the Police Jury.
“We understand the need for care and protection of the public roads and bridges,” Vandersteen said.
“We want to work with the local governments, to let them know where logging operations will be taking place and to address any damages caused.”
Vandersteen said the main objection LFA has with such ordinances is requiring loggers to post “road bonds” to cover repairs of damages.
“These road bonds can become punitive in nature,” Vandersteen said.
Vandersteen may discuss his ideas and concerns with the Police Jury prior to the Sept. 10 public hearing.
The proposed ordinance begins by stating that “no person shall operate or cause to be operated on any parish public road or right-of-way any vehicle, trailer or combination thereof that exceeds the maximum limitations and requirements on width, load, height, length, load care, cargo security, police escorts and precautions and trailers, and towed vehicles.”
The ordinance would require a parish permit prior to any activity for any wheeled or tracked vehicle with a gross weight per axle of over five tons to use a street within a residential subdivision.
It would also prohibit the use of parish roads outside of a developed subdivision of any vehicle exceeding the manufacturer’s specifications on weight and balance limitations.
Those limits apply to any road, bridge, crossdrain or culvert with no posted weight limit. A posted weight limit will replace the manufacturer’s specifications.
The ordinance would also limit operations on any one location to three days.
Individuals or companies violating those provisions will be responsible for the cost of repairing roads, shoulders, ditches and rights-of-way “reasonably attributed” to their actions.
It specifically notes that any vehicle “operated, driven, pushed or pulled” over a bridge that exceeds the weight limit for that bridge “shall be liable for damages caused as a result of this action.”
The ordinance would also prohibit the loading and unloading of cargo (logs, construction material, etc.) and tracking “any debris potentially compromising public safety” (mud, vegetation clippings, etc.) onto a parish road, bridge or right-of-way.
The ordinance exempts the Police Jury maintenance department equipment.
It also exempts agricultural vehicles and equipment “being operated or transported for bona fide agricultural, agronomical or horticultural purposes” and transportation of farm vehicles and equipment “to be used for normal farm purposes for distances not to exceed 50 miles from point of origin.”
For example, a farmer moving a heavy harvesting equipment from one field to another could haul it on a trailer without violating the heavy-hauler ordinance. However, a tractor dealer delivering a new tractor to that farmer’s house would not enjoy the “agricultural” exemption.
If the ordinance is adopted, a road use permit would have to be obtained before any activities such as “timber harvesting, logging, dirt hauling, geophysical operations, waste hauling, high volume heavy transporting, seismic surveys or drill and or mine for oil, gas, coal lignite and/or any other minerals within the parish.”
The Police Jury would determine whether an annual permit would be appropriate for ongoing operations/activities in designated locations and over approved routes.
In past discussions on the issue, an example of “ongoing operations” would be a dirt hauling company that has to use a parish road to get to and from its excavation site for its dirt. This would not be a temporary “in-and-out” activity, but a long-term commercial operation.
The ordinance gives the Police Jury the right to restrict certain activities on roads due to weather conditions or the substandard condition of the road. This would be used to avoid unnecessary damage to the roadway,
Overweight/oversize vehicles will require an additional special permit.
As Vandersteen noted, permit applicants may be required to submit a bond “as a guarantee that the applicant will not damage public roadway infrastructure.” The bond would be $50,000 or more, based on $100,000 per mile, to cover any damages to the road, bridge, utilities, culverts, etc.
If the company does not repair any damages to the Police Jury’s satisfaction, the parish would use the bond to pay for those damages.
The permit applicant would be required to provide information on the location of the activities, the equipment to be used in the operation.
The haulers would have use tarps, binders or protective covers to prevent anything being hauled from spilling, dropping or flying from the truck. The ordinance also prohibits vehicles from being left on a public road or bridge.
The permits will be issued for no more than 60 days. The time frame will be noted in the permit.
If more time is needed to complete the activity, the hauler would have to reapply for a permit and pay an additional inspection fee.
The project has to be cleared with a post-project inspection before an extension of time can be granted.
When the activity is completed, the company must notify the parish so the civil works director can inspect the roads, bridges, culverts, etc. within the area of the work to ensure there was no damage caused by the operation.
If there is no damage, the hauler’s bond will be released.
In addition to paying for any cost of repairs caused by his operations, haulers violating provisions of the road use permit ordinance would be fined $300 for a first offense and $400 for a second offense.
If a hauler has a third offense within seven years, they would be fined $500.
Those penalties also include possible jail sentences of 10, 20 and 30 days.