A recent stop of an oversized load on a parish road by the Bossier Parish Police Jury’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU) points to a problem that potentially could cost parish taxpayers millions of dollars in repairs to vital infrastructure.
An oil field equipment hauler was halted on Levee Board Rd. in south Bossier and CVEU officers weighed the 12-axle truck and lowboy trailer at 232,000 lbs., a total that qualifies as a super load under state law. Moving such a load requires a two-week road and bridge analysis, an engineering study and a permit.
No information on the rig move was received, which meant no study was conducted. In addition, the equipment was being moved without the necessary parish permit.
“Do you know what this does to our timber bridges and asphalt pavement roads?” Bossier Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson asked police jury members who learned of the incident Wednesday. “This can destroy ten million dollars-worth of roads and bridges in a single pass.”
CVEU Commanding Officer Russell Craig said the fine resulting from the stop was almost $18,000 but the company apparently thought that amount was a bargain.
“They just laughed that off. They said it would have cost about fifty thousand dollars to separate the load,” he said. “The real sting here is we had a company in place who was going to do it right and the industry chose to take the low bidder and hire someone to circumvent the law.”
Jackson said some companies complain about the cost of a fine “…but that’s nothing when compared to what it costs the taxpayers of Bossier Parish. These folks thought they could get away with it to save some money.”
Jury member Philip Rodgers said there’s a public perception problem that needs to be addressed when incidents such as this occur.
“The biggest part of the public doesn’t understand what goes on with things like this,” he said. “They think we’re picking on people, but they don’t know what it’s doing to our roads. Our job is to protect the parish.”
Jackson said the parish currently has rules in place that apply to similar situations but there’s a problem about what constitutes an appropriate penalty.
“Should we hire experts on behalf of parish and study the entire route to determine the damage one thing did along the route and sue them for the amount? Is the criminal citation sufficient for the company that knowingly did this? They knew, they did it on purpose,” he said.
Bossier Parish has regulations in place that require oil and gas producers to obtain a $500,000 surety bond in case of damages to parish roads or bridges. Craig said that gives the parish an instrument to assess actual damages and call in the bond to make repairs.
“We’re not trying to vilify anyone, but our roads and bridges are precious resources. It costs a lot of money when folks come to town, and don’t respect our laws and Wild-Wild West their way through the parish,” Jackson said. “It creates problems and the tax base is not there to support it. Our ad valorem is small.”
Jackson pointed to a huge discrepancy in the severance taxes paid by the oil and gas industry and the amount returned to Bossier Parish by the state. Industry companies paid roughly $48 million in taxes while the parish is capped at just over one million dollars in returned revenue.
“This truck was headed to Poole Rd. We are spending three million to repair Poole Rd. and we will get back one million to make repairs if needed. Our parish roads are set up for residential traffic, schools busses and an occasional trash truck. They can’t take this kind of traffic,” he said.
One problem facing the parish is trying to monitor movements of equipment being transported on parish roads and enforce oversized load regulations with only three officers. There’s a good chance some companies are managing to avoid detection and possible violations, Jackson said. He used a movie analogy to describe some companies’ “catch us if you can” attitude.
“Thank goodness we caught this one, but how many did we not catch. What we’ve got here is Smokey and the Bandit,” he said