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Mississippi eyes opening weigh stations to overnight truck parking

Mississippi eyes opening weigh stations to overnight truck parking

Mississippi may allow truckers to park at its weigh stations, though it isn’t certain whether that will come through legislation or administrative action.

The key legislator behind the initiative is Republican state Rep. Jerry Turner. Turner, in a phone interview with FreightWaves, said he has been working with the state’s Northern Commissioner of Transportation John Caldwell to determine whether a change in the law is needed to open the weigh stations to overnight parking. 

But if it is allowed, regardless of the process, Turner said it will be the culmination of efforts that began a few months ago.

Turner said he became interested in the idea of using weigh station capacity for overnight parking when he began hearing feedback from drivers through his Facebook page. Use of the scales has reportedly dropped significantly during the pandemic, as states focus on making the drivers’ travels easier. “The truckers were asking why they could not use those empty spaces at the scales,” Turner said, dating the surge of feedback to last fall.

Turner said he has been speaking with Caldwell, “who assures me we don’t need legislation” to allow that parking. However, if it is needed, Turner said, “there are several legislators in my area that are definitely interested in doing this because they’ve had inquiries about this from truckers as well,” he said.

The state representative described the opening of weigh station parking as “such a commonsense thing could be done at little to no expense.”

Phone calls to Caldwell had not been returned by publication time. But in a story published in the Northwest Mississippi Daily Journal, he said truckers have “limited space to pull over” for parking and noted it is a national problem. 

The newspaper quoted him as believing that permission to park at weigh stations could be granted via administrative action, but said it was a “pretty new proposal and we’re looking at the pros and cons of it.”

“He’s telling me that he thinks it can be done and now the ball is in his court,” Turner said. 

The number of states that permit weigh station parking is unknown. Sarah Hernandez, who teaches in the civil engineering department of the University of Arkansas and who has focused on truck parking as part of her work, said she did not think the Mississippi experiment, if implemented, would be “novel.” But there are states that explicitly do not permit such parking, she added.

Turner represents a district north of Tupelo. He did not know the number of weigh stations in the state and various internet resources had a wide variety of numbers, from more than 20 to as many as 41. The Mississippi Department of Transportation was not immediately available to confirm the number.

Several interstates cross Mississippi. Running north to south are Interstates 55 and 59. East-west traffic flows on 10, 20 and 22.

More articles by John Kingston

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16 February 2021, 22:38