North Carolina state troopers are too heavy-handed when writing tickets as high as $25,000 for overweight trucks, according to trucking and heavy equipment companies that have sued to overturn the patrol’s system of assessing fines, the Raleigh News & Observer reported today, Jan. 15.
According to the newspaper, six companies have filed lawsuits in Wake County against the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which oversees the highway patrol. They claim that troopers are illegally using lesser violations as a basis to decide that special permits for heavy trucks are invalid, allowing the steep fines.
The pushback from the trucking companies, five of which are represented by the same attorney, comes as the N.C. highway patrol has doubled its enforcement of the restrictions and begun writing tickets for sums near the maximum allowed, the News & Observer reported. The companies are asking to pay only the fines for the lesser violations, up to $1,000, and to have the big fines — ranging from $22,120 to $25,000 — thrown out. The lawsuits also seek to have a judge declare the fines excessive and unconstitutional.
In one case, a Superior Court judge sided with Daily Express, a Pennsylvania trucking company, and threw out a $24,493 fine on Dec. 31, the News & Observer reported. The other companies — Cox & Floyd Grading of South Carolina; Earthmovers Equipment and Keen Transport, both of Pennsylvania; Valley Transportation of Minnesota; and West Side Heavy Hauling of Kentucky — claim that troopers fined them too much when drivers were caught without the two escort vehicles required by law.
Patrol officials are unapologetic. “We’re not interested in how much money it generates,” Lt. Everett Clendenin, the patrol’s spokesman, told the News & Observer. “We’re trying to make the highways safe.” Since troopers got the authority to issue penalties to overweight trucks in 2004, they’ve assessed $38.8 million in fines, money that eventually goes to school systems, Clendenin told the News & Observer. The high fines are meant as a deterrent, Clendenin told the newspaper.