Longer trucks could bring bigger worries with them

Longer trucks will soon be seen on N.C. 75 between Waxhaw and Mineral Springs – and they might also travel most state roads.

That's not setting well with some town officials.

Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner worries about the safety of pedestrians, the road's sharp curves and even the effect on downtown Waxhaw's historic buildings.

“Trucks of any size coming through downtown, especially at midnight, come barreling through,” said Gardner. “It shakes the buildings. These are 100 years old.”

The N.C. Department of Transportation has approved a shipping company's request to run 53-foot tractor trailers on N.C. 75 from the S.C. line to the Parkdale Mills textile plant on Mineral Springs' eastern edge. Previously, only 48-foot trucks could legally drive that route.

Also, state lawmakers last week ratified a bill that would allow the longer trailers on primary highways. The measure awaits Gov. Mike Easley's signature. It would allow the longer trucks on most roads in Union County, said Kevin Lacy, state traffic engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

DOT could prohibit such trucks on portions of roads that can't handle longer trucks safely.

The N.C. Trucking Association says 53-footers are becoming the industry standard and would mean fewer trucks on the road.

But the State Highway Patrol is concerned the longer trucks could pose a hazard on some narrow, winding roads, such as in the mountains of Western North Carolina, agency spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said.

In Union County, the prospect of longer trucks on more roads has caused some municipalities to balk, at least at the request earlier this year by Trailer Bridge Inc. The access request would allow 53-foot trucks from Trailer Bridge and other companies to run the N.C. 75 route, as long as their destination was Parkdale Mills, Lacy said.

Waxhaw commissioners opposed the Jacksonville, Fla., company's request. Monroe also opposed an earlier version from the company, which would have allowed the trucks through downtown Monroe to Parkdale Mills. The company withdrew that request in January and submitted one for trucks from South Carolina through Waxhaw.

Mineral Springs did not object. N.C. 75 is relatively straight and flat through the small town, which has just one traffic signal.

“The engineer who investigated (the request) did not see a compelling reason from a safety or operational standpoint” to reject it, Lacy said. Comments from the public mainly concerned heavier trucks. But Trailer Bridge's request dealt with length, not weight, said Lacy, who gave the company the go-ahead.

Representatives of Trailer Bridge did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.