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Part 2: Three Axle Cement Mixers

Welcome to week two in our three part series discussing pending legislation in the Illinois State House. This week we will be digging into SB3505 which would allow 3-axle mixers the same weight tolerances as 3-axle garbage and recycling trucks.  This bill has passed through the second reading of the Senate with one amendment, and is now on the docket for its third reading March 21st, 2012.

To understand the proposed mixer weights, one must understand the higher garbage weights.  Decades ago, when larger compactor garbage trucks became the industry standard, it became apparent greater than legal weight tolerances were needed.  In order to navigate tight city streets and parking lots, the 3-axle version of the compactor became most prevalent in Illinois.  A typical 3-axle truck with a wheelbase similar to a compactor would normally have  a maximum gross weight anywhere between 50,000-52,000 pounds under the federal bridge formula.  Illinois not only exempts 3-axle garbage trucks from this formula, but provides a higher gross weight of 54,000 pounds.  Axle weights are elevated as well…40,000 pounds for a tandem axle (legal=34,000), and 22,000 pounds for a single axle (legal=20,000).

As Illinois has divided legal size and weights by commodity, a logical reaction from divisions within the trucking industry is an expectation of the same privileges as their colleagues.  By allowing the 3-axle cement mixers the same tolerances as 3-axle garbage trucks, they will be able to carry more cement, allowing more material to be moved at a cheaper price.  The cost of labor to chip dry concrete out of the drums under OSHA regulations is also a cost savings for the cement industry.  Last but not least, less overweight tickets from law enforcement improves the bottom line as well.

On 1/1/2007, Public Act 94-0926 went into effect giving the concrete industry higher weight limits and protections with 4-axle mixers.  This was a huge win for their industry, especially after then Gov. Blagojevich vetoed a previous House version of the bill.  No one can blame the concrete industry for lobby efforts to make more money, but there is a very different distinction between garbage and cement:  cement weight is objective…it can be metered and controlled.  Not so true in the garbage industry.

This is not an article to defend overweight garbage trucks, but there is subjectivity to their loads.  A garbage truck picking up at the curb, a private business, or a construction site is at the mercy of what the customer loaded into the containers.  Garbage weight is also variable depending on the weather…just ask your local waste drivers how many truck cops are stopping them the morning after a big rain.  Even with higher weights, the garbage industry pays a high price for enforcement.  On the other hand, every legitimate concrete yard meters out the material.  Weight is objective.  The cement  industry can choose to load trucks legal.  They can choose to chip their drums in order to carry more concrete in the plastic state as opposed to the dry state.  They can choose to use their 4-axle trucks to spread out the weight and do less damage to the roads.

Is another weight exception for their industry really neccessary?  Will the cost savings actually be passed along to the consumer?  Can Illinois roads and bridges truly handle more trucks with higher weight limits?  Is abrogating legal weights really beneficial for the people or just another windfall for a sect of the trucking industry?  Legislative equality between garbage and cement is apples and oranges….guess it all comes down to what you have a taste for.

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