TUPELO A Lee County legislator and north Mississippi’s highway commissioner are exploring the possibility of allowing truckers to park and sleep overnight at state-operated weigh stations.

Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, has encouraged the Mississippi Department of Transportation to drop its policy banning overnight parking at its scale facilities.

Turner said when drivers need to sleep or rest, there are often limited options to get off the road.

“One night I came by where the truck stop is at Belden. Both ramp sides had trucks lined up, coming off and on the entrance ramp,” Turner said. “Truckers were there sleeping. That’s not the safest thing in the world, and the truckers don’t like it.”

Federal regulations limit the number of consecutive hours truckers may drive on the road and mandate certain periods of rest, both within a single day and over longer spans of time. Hours-of-service, or HOS, regulations limit property-carrying truckers to a maximum of 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers who violate these rules face hefty fines, or with repeated violations, even criminal penalties.

Northern District Transportation Commissioner John Caldwell said truckers finding “limited space to pull over” is a national problem and added that commonly used electronic log books are “harder to fudge.”

Caldwell said truckers “already go to the welcome areas where we allow it, so they have places, but it’s getting fewer and far between, so truckers are looking to get their rest.”

The first-term highway commissioner believes MDOT could drop its overnight parking ban at the weigh stations without any kind of legislation, so Turner – who is advocating for just that policy – said he agreed not to pursue any kind of bill on the matter.

“It’s a pretty new proposal, and we’re looking at the pros and cons of it,” Caldwell said.

One issue? Even allowing parking at weigh stations in Mississippi wouldn’t help that many truckers. They just aren’t large enough.

Other states, for example, do allow parking at the scales. But most of those states planned for that when constructing those stations.

“Our biggest dilemma is space. Because we didn’t build for it, it’d be pretty limited benefit,” Caldwell said. “Some of these places in Florida, they have 20 truck spaces. We don’t have weigh scales with 20 spaces available. So it’d be a pretty limited benefit.”

Turner pledged to continue working with MDOT to see the issue through.

Following a December Facebook post by Turner, other Northeast Mississippi legislators commented to express support for the weigh station proposal, including Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville and Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, R-Burnsville.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com

Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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