Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo has asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to settle a dispute between Arredondo’s office and the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office over how to enforce fines for overweight commercial vehicles on roads with reduced weight limits.
In a letter dated Aug. 13 and seeking an opinion from Paxton, Arredondo notes the Texas Transportation Code sets out fines for overweight commercial vehicles, including a graduated fine schedule depending upon the amount a vehicle is over the allowable weight.
“The issue is whether this fine schedule applies to commercial vehicles that would otehrwise be under the weight limit set by said statute, if not for the fact that the vehicle was operating on a road that has been zoned for a lower weight than the general maximum allowable weight,” Arredondo wrote.
“Due to the potential of a large fine amount, the disagreement between agencies and counties, the damage being caused by overweight trucks in a steadily growing county, and the impact this causes on the amount of expenditures necessarily made annually to repair the roads with taxpayer funds, this issue would greatly benefit from any clarity and/or insight your office may have.”
Texas Transportation Code Section 621.101 sets out the weight limits allowable on public highways in the state of Texas, but Section 621.102 then allows the executive director of the Texas Dearptment of Transportation to set lower maximum weight limits for certain state roads, including highways like Texas 29 and Texas 71, or farm-to-market roads like FM 1431 or FM 963 if safety issues require them.
While Section 621.506 of the code then spells out a graduated fine schedule from $100 to $10,000 for violations of certain setions of the code, including 621.101, another section of the code sets out a maximum fine of $200 in general for all violations which are not specifically stated in 621.506.
Arredonod said his office believes a violation of a weight limit on a roadway modified under section 621.102 should be punishable under that section of the code.
“If true, then said violation is not listed under the higher punishment range listed under section 621.506; and therefore, the lower punishment level (maximum fine of $200) found in section 621.507 applies to the offense. Because Section 621.101 does not list a reduced weight limit violation authorized by Section 621.102 in its wording, such a violation is related to section 621.102 itself,” Arredondo wrote. “When a complaint is prepared for a violation of a reduced weight roadway as outlined under section 621.102 occurs, what statute should the complaint list to give a defendant adequate notice of the violation? The Burnet County Attorney’s Office contends it should list section 621.102.”
Arredondo said Sheriff Calvin Boyd’s office, however, contends that “section 621.102 only grants power to modify the gross weight limit and a violation of a lowered weight limit on a roadway is an offense of section 621.101.”
“If true, then the punishment level for such an offense falls under section 621.506 because section 621.101 is listed thereunder. Further, when listing the statute in the complaint, section 621.101 not 621.102 should be cited,” Arredondo wrote.
A large number of commercial vehicles use federal, state and county roadways in Burnet County each day — including vehicles from local rock quarries and large trucks carrying wind turbine parts, some of which exceed the maximum weight limits for area highways and roads.