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Big loads on tiny roads—Carriers struggle to find routes through Missouri

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Every year, the truckloads moving across Missouri are getting bigger and bigger. And, disconcertingly, the state is turning to smaller and smaller roads to handle the job.

More than 150,000 trucks carrying oversize or overweight loads cross Missouri annually. The state also sees about 2,500 trucks hauling massively heavy or bulky items—called superloads—each year.

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The state’s division of Motor Carrier Services issues permits for these loads and helps carriers identify safe routes through the state. Sometimes, finding a route can take months of planning. More and more, the only available paths through Missouri for the biggest loads are smaller roads through rural communities.

“These are not the roads we would like to see these big loads traveling on, but it’s often the only option,” said Scott Marion, director of Motor Carrier Services.

Routing huge trucks through small towns can cause safety concerns and traffic issues.

Marion said he would far prefer to see big loads traveling quickly through Missouri using on major highways. However, Missouri highways have many overpasses that are too short for tall loads.  Other obstacles include the state’s 641 bridges in critical condition and 1,300 more with weight limits.

When route planners factor in other issues such as work zones and road conditions, Marion said the resulting paths big loads must take through Missouri often resemble mazes.

“As the condition of our roads and bridges decline, it’s getting really, really hard to find good, safe routes for these big trucks,” he said.

infrastructurebadgeSpeaking to the Missouri House Transportation Committee, he offered one example of a big load his division helped route from St. Louis to Kansas City. The initial idea was obvious—put it on I-70.

But the various restrictions on the highway meant the route would need another, much longer, path—turning the direct 271 mile trip into a winding 413 mile journey.

“It kills me to say this, but this kind of situation happens every day,” Marion said.

In this instance, the extra mileage added $262 to the cost of one shipment.

“This is happening over and over and over again and adding cost to our economy,” he said.

As a result, some carriers are beginning to avoid shipping through Missouri.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is calling on the General Assembly to invest in the state’s transportation system.

Learn more about the business community’s views on the state’s transportation system.

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