Overweight truck fine of $14k upheld; GPS no excuse
September 27, 2019
A Pennsylvania appeals court has upheld a $14,000 fine for a trucker who violated overweight laws, not accepting the driver’s excuse that has been heard over again.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a lower court’s decision to fine truck driver Na’Ron Emil Akins $14,250 for driving overweight in Hellertown. Akins represented himself in court, making an argument that has become all too familiar in the industry in the 21st century.
Nearly 50,000 pounds overweight
In June 2018, Akins was pulled over by a Hellertown Police Department officer for driving a five-axle tractor-trailer on Northampton Street. A 6-ton weight limit is posted on the street. Truckers are provided with sufficient warnings to turn onto another route via street signs.
At the time, Akins had just picked up a load in Bethlehem, Penn. The load was to be delivered in Texas. Trained to weigh trucks, the officer discovered the truck weighed 61,789 pounds. Akins was nearly 50,000 pounds over the posted limit.
GPS is no excuse
However, one of the exceptions to the overweight laws applies to those making local deliveries. Akins attempted to invoke that exception. In fact, he had documented proof that the load he picked up is considered local. Furthermore, Akins submitted evidence that his GPS instructed him to use Northampton road.
That overweight exception comes with some caveats. Firstly, the pickup must occur on Northampton Street. If not on Northampton, then somewhere that could not reasonably be accessed without driving on that road. Simply using a MapQuest printout, the state was able to prove that Akins’ pickup location was a half mile from where he was cited. Additionally, the map revealed Akins had ample opportunity to turn onto a different route.
“Akins’ argument that he was following a GPS navigation system does not excuse his failure to follow posted traffic signage, including duly posted signage warning of weight limits on surface streets,” the trial court determined.
The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s overweight exception analysis.
“Appellant’s local pickup did not require him to drive on Northampton Road,” the court opined. “Appellant’s bill of lading for his Easton Road pickup did not serve as a permit to drive wherever he wanted or wherever his GPS told him to go after making his pickup, with utter disregard for posted weight restrictions. He had an obligation to avoid the restricted road via a reasonable alternative route. He failed to do so.”