Most Montanans have heard by now about proposals to ship oversize loads through Montana to support our state’s energy needs. However it’s been difficult to sort out the facts about those shipments from media accounts. For instance, at a forum sponsored by a local environmental group recently, several residents painted a picture of gloom and doom should the shipments be allowed. Yet, earlier this month in neighboring Idaho, an independent administrative hearing confirmed that the shipments are safe and the planning process used by the state of Idaho to review the shipments was thorough — ensuring the shipments would not harm the environment, roads or people. With these conclusions so different, I’d say it’s time we took an honest look at just the facts.

As the former Enforcement Bureau Chief at the Motor Carriers Division of the Montana Department of Transportation, I am very familiar with safety issues at hand with trucking projects on our roads, and spent my career evaluating just the facts. No one takes highway safety more seriously than the dedicated employees at the Montana Department of Transportation. So let me outline the intricate precautions that go into the oversized shipments.

In the first place, these shipments are technically no different than the many other oversize loads that regularly travel on our highways. The proposed shipments must abide by all state requirements for overweight and oversize loads, and thorough testing and engineering work had to be done to demonstrate the planned route can accommodate loads of this weight and size.

What is different in the preparation for these shipments is that state agencies and the shippers themselves have gone above and beyond to protect public safety and minimize the impact of the shipments on area residents, leaving our roads better than they were before.

The roughly 200 loads will be transported between midnight and 6 a.m., when local traffic or tourism will see little, if any, disruption. Each load will be escorted by law enforcement personnel, with the most experienced drivers in the world at the wheel. None of the loads will contain any hazardous or dangerous substances. In addition, the project has involved Montana state officials’ intricate planning for two years.

These are the types of objective facts that were neglected at the recent forum held by Friends of 2 Rivers. That event instead relied on conjecture and unsubstantiated criticisms by former MDT lawyer Bob Gentry. I respect Mr. Gentry’s service, but the facts are he lacks the technical credentials to evaluate the complex logistical and safety planning procedure the department used to evaluate these permits. As a former enforcement officer, and as bureau chief, it was in part my responsibility to address safety within the department, and I can rest easy knowing the shipments received the department’s full review.

The reality is that Montana will see $67 million in new private-sector investment, as well as job creation and increased tax revenue. We’ll also benefit from new highway turnoffs — a public infrastructure upgrade that benefits everyone who uses our highways at no expense to taxpayers.

Montana businesses and working citizens need to know that access to our roads is governed by objective rules, based on “just the facts.” Companies that obey the rules should have every right to use the roads, just like everyone else. That’s why our own Gov. Brian Schweitzer has voiced his support for these shipments, and that’s why I’ve put my name behind them.

It’s time to stop the delays and get back to work.

Mark Moberley is the former Motor Carrier Services Division Enforcement Bureau Chief at the Montana Department of Transportation.

(4) comments

maybe

I appreciate your point of view but respectfully disagree with your opinion. These loads are wider, longer and heavier than anything that's ever been transported on highway 12. Because of the extra large load size the traveling speeds are much slower therefore the delays created by the loads are much longer. The other major difference is that most oversized permits are for one or two loads BUT Imperial has 200+ loads. This amount of oversize traffic increase coupled with the knowledge that there are other companies lining up to ship more oversized loads on this route stands to change the nature of the route. This kind of change affects the residents, tourists and the current semi-truck traffic on the route. If more semi's begin driving this stretch in the day in order to avoid nightly rolling shut-downs there will be impacts to residents and visitors alike. And then there's the issue of if there is an accident. I understand that you believe Imperial/Exxon has done everything they can to assure the safety of these loads but that being said accidents can happen. An accident may not spell environmental doom and gloom but would create a major transportation problem for the people and businesses who rely on 12.
While they might have crunched the numbers and analyzed the engineering reports they still haven't proven that this route can handle so many oversized loads. Why didn't they ever run the test module that was planned for last spring then moved to last fall and then given up?
Your point is that this is good for the economy, the other side believes this is bad for the economy - my guess is the numbers can be manipulated to prove either point. The bigger issue is that changing Highway 12 & 200 into an mega-load route with nightly rolling shut-downs will have long term affects and the more we truthfully address the issue the better our future will be.

Independent

Get the loads moving. Those that want this stopped are against all commerce. There is no logical reason to oppose these trucks.

maybe

I am against these mega loads but I am not against commerce. I believe there are lots of logical reason to oppose these loads here are a few:
1. They are too big for highway 12 - taking up both lanes and shutting down all traffic as they creep along.
2. They are 200+ of them with more in the works - so many oversized loads on a highway that can barely handle the current normal traffic. Tax payers will end up paying for road repairs.
3. By blockading pullouts they'll change the access to national forest lands and make it harder for drivers to pull over to let faster traffic pass. These companies are being allowed to blockade the pullouts during the day as well as the night.
4. This equipment can be made in Canada. Canadian steelworkers need the work and they're right next to the tar sands.
5. There are other routes available to these loads as well as other options of transporting them - like cutting them down to a size that can fit on a train or manuever highway 12 without having to blockade traffic and pullouts.

What effect will nightly rolling shut downs of highway 12 (4 between Missoula and Lewiston) have on the current semi-truck commerce that takes places mostly at night along highway 12? We're not talking about one or two loads we're talking hundreds.

cogitate_truth

The weight issue is related to the number of tires under the load. These loads are probably lighter than a large SUV per inch of tread.

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