Reduced speed, weight limits on bridge could hurt businesses - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Reduced speed, weight limits on bridge could hurt businesses

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLACK ROCK, AR (KAIT) - The Black Rock Bridge has been around since the 40's and is part of a highly traveled highway for trucks. Last week the truck weight was reduced to 33 tons. Local gravel haulers are up in arms over the sudden change.

Roma Aaron's owns Aaron Trucking in Black Rock. "I can't go over that bridge and can you imagine the price of me having to go around."

Bonnie Ragsdale and her husband own a truck and hire a driver. The Ragsdale truck contracts to Aaron. "You haul less and the fuel prices stay the same so it's just not a good situation."

Hauling crushed rock is a huge business  in Black Rock. There are 3 gravel pits within 5 miles of the town. As you drive through the area there are gravel trucks parked everywhere or coming in and out of the crushers.

Roma Aaron waved her hand around the lot filled with parked trucks. "Everybody that lives around here are truck drivers. They either own their own or work for somebody."

A typical day at one rock yard will see 75 - 100 loaded trucks roll across the scales and out the gates. A standard semi gravel truck will weigh about 40 tons fully loaded.

The new load restrictions on the bridge means you're only going to be able to carry as much weight on a semi truck as you do on a three axle dump truck. That means cutting the loads on the big trucks down by nearly half. Aaron says they only have one three axle.

The new weight limit on the bridge is 33 Tons. District Engineer Walter McMillan says this change was made after the last annual inspection which was completed in October. He says the bridge has no major structural flaws that he knows of, but it is 65 years old. That was the driving force behind the weight limit.

"More or less due to its age, the traffic that is on it, the wear and tear of it over the years." he said.

But with the changes and the possibility of being ticketed, trucks will have to take a different route to Jonesboro and other areas on the North side. Going through Imboden, Pocahontas and down to 63. This route will add nearly 40 miles to a trip to Jonesboro or beyond. Aaron says her trucks normally make 4 to 5 runs a day. More miles means more fuel and wear and tear on the trucks. That detour will cost Aaron's customers.

Aaron says she has to call all her contracted customers, "I've got to call all those people and tell them that I have to go around and it's going to cost them two and a half dollars a ton to go around. And we haven't even raised our rates on fuel yet."

Increased costs mean less profits as well. Not only do the Ragsdales have to pay fuel and upkeep on a truck they pay a driver as well.

"It would take away from my profit because we pay the driver a percentage." Ragsdale said, "He would get paid but would cut his check too."

The short notice on the weight change, the possibility of fines for overloaded trucks, even though the Highway Police are warning trucks now. But add in added driving time and increased costs the new weight is threatening economic survival in Black Rock.

Aaron, "I don't see how all of us can. Not only me but individuals."

McMillan says a new bridge would cost millions and take about 4 years to complete.

 

 

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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