Garfield mulls overweight loads sought by energy industry

Garfield County commissioners have agreed to proceed with allowing overweight “divisible” truckloads in the county, a move that could produce savings for the energy and other industries and reduce impacts related to truck traffic volume.

But the decision could be limited in scope or reversed depending on what commissioners learn about the potential physical impacts to roads and financial impacts to the county.

Commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson this week voted in favor of allowing overweight permits for such loads, with Tom Jankovsky dissenting out of fear that the county’s roads aren’t up to the standards necessary to handle such loads.

The county currently issues permits for overweight loads that can’t be split up. But it hasn’t done so in the case of trucks that haul water, gravel, cement and other loads that can be divided to comply with the county’s weight limits.

Gonzo LLC, a Mesa County company that services the oil and gas industry, asked the county to change that policy, as has Transwest Truck Trailer RV, which has a dealership in Grand Junction. Gonzo wants to use single-unit, quad-axle water trucks capable of carrying larger loads than are allowed by the county.

The county currently lets single-unit, tandem-axle trucks haul up to 54,000 pounds (vehicle weight included) on county roads without a permit. A semi-truck trailer combination capable of carrying up to 130 barrels is allowed to have a gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds because the weight is spread out over 50 feet.

The quad-axle trucks, with as many axles as the semi combination, also can carry 130 barrels and weigh about 79,000 pounds when full. But the wheels are spread out over about 27 feet.

That shorter wheelbase is easier to navigate on well pad roads. Advocates of the quad-axle vehicle’s use, including David Ludlam of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, say its increased hauling capacity also reduces the number of truck trips and the associated dust, emission and other concerns. And he said the use of such trucks would be one more means of keeping it affordable for companies to continue drilling locally.

But because the weight is concentrated in a shorter length, county staff members warned commissioners about the potential expense to the county from damaged roads.

Commissioners directed their staff to further investigate what the road impacts could be, and indicated they could decide to continue prohibiting overweight divisible loads, or limit them to a few specified roads, if the potential impact is deemed to otherwise be too great.


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