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Bringing out the big rigs; 43,000 more wide-load permits issued in ND

Move over North Dakota drivers, because there are thousands more oversized semis on the roads than last year, officials say.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol reported 43,000 more wide-load permits in 2011 than the previous year.

"If you look at the types of equipment that is required to either service oil rigs or just the movement of the rig pieces themselves...we are permitting more over-dimensional loads," said Capt. Eldon Mehrer, NDHP Motor Carrier Operations commander in Bismarck.

The NDHP totals overweight load permits between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30. Mehrer said permits for semis that are overweight that cannot be taken apart have increased by more than 14,000 over last year. Permits for loads that can be taken apart have increased by almost 29,000 this year.

Dunn County Sheriff Don Rockvoy has not only noticed an increase in oversized semis on the road, he said more semis without oversized permits are being stopped.

"We check a lot of permits. We are checking them every day," he said, adding that the sheriff's department had weighed-in its second semi of the day as of 3:30 p.m. that day.

Rockvoy said some semi drivers try to get past the system, but some are not always intentional.

"Sometimes it might be a new company to the area and they haven't done their research and know that they are supposed to be using permits," he said. "Some we see they'll have a permit, but they'll have it permitted for way less than what they actually are."

Killdeer Police Chief Chris Fenstermaker said semis are not allowed on city residential streets, though some semis are caught driving in town.

"It is kind of a battle, but it's no more than anything else," he said. "They only usually do it once, and then they are done with it."

Semi drivers do not need a permit unless their loads are more than 8-feet, 6-inches wide, 14-feet, 6-inches tall or 75-feet long, Mehrer said.

Weight restrictions depend on the roads traveled. For example, semis can weigh up to 80,000 pounds on interstates without being permitted. Drivers are required to pay $20 for a 72-hour permit. Drivers can also get annual permits.

After receiving a permit, oversized semis must use banners and flags that designate their load as over the legal weight. Drivers are also not allowed to drive more than 30 minutes before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset.

Mehrer said drivers should be aware of the blind spots over-dimensional loads may have. He added motorists should slow down and pull over to the right side of the road when meeting oversized semis.

Rockvoy also said motorists need to be aware of what the drivers need to do, such as making wider turns. He added drivers need to have patience.

"The (semi) drivers are professional, but the motoring public just has to be careful because it is a big piece of equipment coming down the road," he said. "We see a lot of people now that don't have the patience to follow them."

Mehrer said the No. 1 factor in accidents and crashes is speed, and driving around oversized semis is no different. Motorists should not let other activities distract them -- texting, talking, eating, etc.

"Ultimately, how you drive and how safe you drive is the responsibility of the person behind the wheel," he said. "There is a great deal of personal responsibility that people have to drive safely. We want people to concentrate on what they should be doing behind the wheel, and that's driving in the safest manner possible."