Road Commissioner          Road Commissioner: Jim Mclean
Heavy Loads and Local Roads in Maine
Under authority of 29-A MRSA, Section 2395, all public roads may be temporarily posted to prevent abuse by heavy vehicles. The statute states that all municipal officers (not officials), the MDOT, and county commissioners "may adopt such rules to ensure proper use and prevent abuse of the public ways ... whenever those ways require special protection". (A municipal "officer" is the highest level of government (i.e. selectman or councilor) in a town. A town manager or road commissioner is not an "officer".
Up until July 15, 1986, the statute allowed temporary posting only "during such seasons of the year" when protection was necessary. Typically, this meant the spring when roads are in their weakest condition. This wording was modified in 1986 to "whenever", so that temporary road posting can be in effect during other times in a year. The MDOT has a posting period from November 15 to June 1. Many of Maine's local roads are not capable of handling today's heavier vehicle loads even during the summer and fall, so it may be advisable to post roads during these "other" seasons, if necessary.
The main idea is to enact rules which are related to the registered gross vehicle weight. This eliminates the need to actually weigh vehicles - simply check the registrations.
Signs "must be conspicuously posted" at each end of each section of road on which the Town wants to temporarily restrict heavy vehicles. The actual signs should be highly visible in color and size. You may want to place the signs high enough to be out of easy reach of vandals, but not so high as to be missed by drivers. The law does not specify any particular height.
Type of Signs
Typically, fluorescent orange signs measuring 11" x 22" are available at many local printshops around the state. (MDOT no longer provides signs to municipalities.) The color does not have to be fluorescent orange - it may be white, yellow, or any other visible color. The thickness of the signs is also important because a thin sign will not stand up to snow, rain, or slush. The standard, heavy duty MDOT signs are 0.048" thick (14 ply) and typically last for 1 or 2 seasons.
The "Heavy Loads Limited" signs which are the most commonly used signs in Maine are acceptable, but how does a truck driver know the weight limit, vehicle types, and posting dates when driving by them? Drivers are not known to stop and go over and read the signs!
You may want to design your own and graphically illustrate 2 or 3 vehicle types and put your weight limits in BOLD PRINT. This format will get your message across much more clearly.
Filling in the Blanks
Each sign shall state:
1.) The name of the road and if all or parts of the road are being posted;
2.) The "prescribed restrictions" (i.e. weight limits);
3.) The periods of closing;
4.) Any "exclusions", such as exempt vehicles.
It would also be helpful to have the signature of at least one of the selectmen or other municipal officers on the bottom with a telephone number. A road commissioner could also sign under the authority of the board or council, even though he/she is a municipal official and not an officer.
The effective date of posting should precede any significant thawing period. Temperatures vary greatly around the state, but generally the MDOT has found that posting roads in early March is relatively typical. This prohibits heavy vehicles during those warmer days when the road surface softens, and then refreezes at night. Vehicles should not be allowed on any road which is anything less than solidly frozen. A road is considered "solidly frozen" only when the air temperature is 32 ° F or below and no water is showing in the cracks of the road (if paved) or there is less than 1/2" of "thaw" on the gravel surface.
When to Remove Your Posting
The last day of posting can vary across the state. There is nothing "magical" about the commonly used date of May 15. The posting should remain in effect until after the frost has come out of the ground AND all of the excess water has drained off. Generally, it is best to "build-in" a couple of weeks beyond which conditions are back to "normal". Typically, state roads are posted until mid-April in southern Maine and late April/early May in northern Maine. Therefore, a posted ending date of early May is suggested.
Enforcing the Law
By law, "the municipal officers within their respective municipality have the same power as the State Police in the enforcement of all rules of the DOT, the County Commissioners, and the municipal officers that pertain...". In other words, a selectman or councilor could stop vehicles, but it is probably best to leave these enforcement activities to law officers who are familiar with such duties. The State or County Police do not have to be called in to stop violators. Your local police officer has the power and violators can be summonsed with uniform traffic citations.
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