A proposal to increase the weight limit for hauling timber and other farm products now awaits the governor’s signature to become law despite opposition from top transportation officials.

The Senate on Thursday approved the House changes to Senate Bill 2418, which would increase the weight limit tolerance for harvest permit vehicles and vehicles loading and unloading at state ports. If signed by the governor, it would take effect July 1.

Out of the 12 senators who voted against the proposal, one of them was Senate Transportation committee chairman Sen. Willie Simmons, D- Cleveland.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation allows trucks to haul 80,000 pounds on all roads and 84,000 pounds with state-issued harvest permits, which cost $25 and are issued to owners and operators of vehicles that haul specific materials, such as sand, gravel, agricultural products and unprocessed forestry products; these rules do not apply to roads designated low weight.

Right now, those hauling trucks are not allowed to weigh more than 80,000 pounds – or 40,000 pounds on each end on the truck – and there is a 5 percent tolerance above that weight on each axle, which is often within a set of wheels. This leaves room for another 2,000 pounds on either end.

Should any product shift around while a truck is on the road, the bill would allow the tolerance for each axle to increase. The bill proposes raising that tolerance to 10 percent, allowing up to 4,000 pounds on each end instead of 2,000 pounds.

Dick Hall, Transportation Commissioner Credit: Rogelio Solis, AP

Proposal author Sen. Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, asked the Senate on Thursday to approve the House revisions to the bill from the week before.

“The House had two very simple changes that removed the reverse repealer and extended the repealer until 2022, and added some clarifying language … to address vehicles that do not operate under this permit,” Branning said.

Dick Hall, chairman of the Mississippi Transportation Commission, earlier this week spoke against the bill, voicing the concern that adding more pressure on the state’s bridges could potentially put lives at risk.

“This is probably going to post or close almost 1,400 additional bridges in the state, most are county bridges,” Hall said on Monday. “ … It’s going to cost millions.”

“In reality, (even when you limit the weight of vehicles that can safely cross a bridge), trucks and school buses go right over it,” Hall said. “How many times do you play Russian roulette until the gun goes off? Sooner or later, it’s going to.”