Sen. Steve Goss, D-Watauga, has won an important battle in the fight to protect the local Christmas tree industry.
Several times in recent years, officers with the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and other agencies have descended on Ashe County, ticketing trucks headed to pick up trees from our local growers. This effort has raised concerns about the long-term impact on the industry, as well as strong criticism from area farmers.
Goss announced this week that the Attorney General’s office had ruled that trucks up to 53 feet in length are legal on our entire federally-funded highway system, as well as three miles from those roads. He released the news, with details, on Monday afternoon:
Senator Steve Goss has received word today of a revised interpretation of state law which states that US 321 and US 421 statewide will now be accessible for truck/tractors pulling semi-trailers up to 53 feet in length. (below)
“The critical importance of this interpretation,” Goss noted, “is that trailers up to 53 feet in length will now be legal on our road system and up to three miles from these roads.” Goss is currently in discussions with the Office of the Attorney General to further clarify how the interpretation affects US 221 in Ashe County.
Goss continued, “I have been assured by state authorities that safety concerns can be addressed with strict speed limit enforcement while giving diligent attention to equipment, and I believe the Attorney General has been prudent in addressing this important issue in a timely manner. I also appreciate the NC Highway Patrol’s efforts to enforce the new ruling in an expeditious manner as well. I believe they have addressed it in a way that will not jeopardize highway safety along the designated routes.”
Goss concluded, “I am asking for strict speed limit enforcement and safety equipment enforcement on US 421 west of the Wilkesboros with special attention to the mountainous portion. I have also asked the Department of Transportation to consider more warning signs and other measures that will make the route safer for truckers as well as others who travel the route”.
Goss also provided a copy of two key memos, given in full below:
Subject: FW: STAA Route Designation Change
Below find a directive from Captain W M Nichols of the Highway Patrol providing guidance based on oral analysis I received from the Attorney General’s office on Friday night. The Attorney General’s office has informed me that they will provide a letter on this on Monday to the Secretaries who made the inquiry. But we felt it important to act now, while we had the advice in hand so as to enforce the law as we understand it and as verified by the AG.
A more complete map and routes affected will be made available ASAP, but of course, these were the routes generating the most concern.
I appreciate your patience on this, and the prompt attention that the AG gave to this matter given all their other priorities. I have notified Andy Ellen of the Retail Merchants Association as well. Sen. Hoyle was notified by phone earlier today.
From: Nichols, William M.
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 17:23
Subject: STAA Route Designation Change
The North Carolina Attorney General’s office has provided a corrected interpretation of those roads in North Carolina designated as accessible by truck/tractors pulling semi-trailers of not more than 53 feet in length. State Highway Patrol members have previously been made aware that truck/tractors pulling semi-trailers longer than 48 feet, but not more than 53 feet, and trucks pulling double trailers were limited to a network of roads designated by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). This network of roads, commonly referred to as the STAA Network, are outlined in red and silhouetted on a map of the State of North Carolina. These designated routes consisted of Interstates andother primary routes.
Per the new interpretation, the routes listed on the STAA Network map for trucks pulling double trailers have not changed. However, US 321 and US 421 statewide will now be accessible for truck/tractors pulling semi-trailers not more than 53 feet in length. US 221 between Boone and the South Carolina State Line will also be accessible to semi-trailers not more than 53 feet in length. Again these new route designations do not apply to trucks pulling double trailers, unless already outlined by the STAA Network.
Effective immediately, no enforcement action shall be taken against drivers solely for operation of truck/tractors with semi-trailers longer than 48 feet, but no more than 53 feet, on these newly designated routes. All other provisions of law shall still apply with the exception of length on these designated roads. Reasonable access shall be granted up to 3 miles from the new designated routes.