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Dickinson has raked in $80K from overweight trucks this year

Officer Tim Jokerst, a truck regulation officer with the Dickinson Police Department, watches from his pickup as a semi truck hauling a grain trailer drives down State Avenue South on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Officer Tim Jokerst, a truck regulation officer with the Dickinson Police Department, watches traffic on State Avenue South on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

The city of Dickinson has collected more than $83,000 in fines from overweight trucks driving in the city limits since the beginning of the year, according the Dickinson Municipal Court records.

This amount is an increase from last year, when the city collected $56,590, though part of the discrepancy is that there was not an officer enforcing these weight regulations the first few months of 2015.

The city established a position for a truck regulatory enforcement officer about two-and-a-half years ago, said Dickinson Police Capt. Joe Cianni. The first officer to fill the position left the police department, leaving the position vacant for about six months before Officer Tim Jokerst took on the role in May of 2015.

“The reason that I have a job and that I do this job is to protect the city of Dickinson’s roads and the state of North Dakota’s highways,” Jokerst said. “So if it wasn’t for me, we’d have millions and millions of dollars of road damage every year from trucks driving as heavy as they want to, wherever they want to in the city of Dickinson.”

The fees he collects go toward the road damage overweight trucks create.

“The purpose of the statute is to prevent the destruction of streets within the city of Dickinson, and so that’s why the city regulates that type of information, and they regulate who is able to travel within the city,” said Christina Wenko, the Dickinson city prosecutor and an attorney with the Mackoff Kellogg law firm. “So it’s not [for] the purpose of generating fees. It’s the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the streets within the city of Dickinson, and that’s one way that the city is able to do that is to regulate the enforcement of the trucks and the overweight loads that are coming in and out of Dickinson.”

Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel noted the intersection of State Avenue and Fairway as a spot where the damage of overweight trucks is noticeable. He said the intersection is slated  for improvement as a result.

He added that the construction of the Brady Wind farm south of Dickinson has increased truck traffic and overweight permits in city limits.

A truck and trailer may weigh up to 105,500 pounds, assuming it meets certain length and axle requirements, before requiring a permit in order to drive. Dickinson requires a permit separate from the state of North Dakota for these large loads, Jokerst said. The Dickinson permit can be applied for online and can be approved within 15 minutes depending on how long it takes the city to review it, Cianni said.

“For whatever reason, the permits are not being applied for or they’re applied for inaccurately which results in the citing of the overweight ticket,” Wenko said.

Jokerst operates as a one-man show monitoring the flow of trucks throughout the city. There are telling signs of an overweight vehicle, including exceedingly large equipment, balling tires that begin to look egg-shaped because of the pressure, squatted suspensions and slow acceleration even on flat surfaces, he said.

He has portable state-certified scales which he then uses to weigh the individual axles to determine whether the vehicle is overweight. He calculates the fine depending on how much the truck is overweight and hands it to the driver on the spot.

“Whenever a truck is found to be overweight, it automatically becomes impounded because it’s now evidence of a crime … that they violated North Dakota law,” he said.

The fines start out costing $20 for every 1,000 pounds overweight and then doubles once the weight exceeds 10,000 pounds and continues to increase from there. He said he has cited people with anywhere from $250 to $14,000.

The driver has the option to pay the fee on the spot, essentially posting a bond for the vehicle and avoiding going to court. The driver or company may also go to court where they must prove that they were in compliance with the weight restrictions, Jokerst said.

But some companies may not be aware that Dickinson requires a separate permit.

“Most cities don’t have a truck regulatory officer or a permitting system, so we’re kind of exclusive to that,” Cianni said.

Jokerst said this is more of an excuse, noting that trucking companies should diligently check their routes and the requirements of each road. State permits also usually say to contact local authorities about their overweight trucking requirements as well, something many simply fail to do, he said. He said these instances sometimes occur simply when a company is in a hurry or trying to cut corners.

Ultimately the permitting system, which Jokerst helped the city establish, keeps track of who is moving what through the city and has helped increase compliance within the city limits, he said.

“We don’t want people to think that we’re out picking on people or trying to find people to create money,” said Al Heiser, Stark County road superintendent. “We’re just out there to make sure that our roads are taken care of … and the damage that an overload truck can create can be pretty costly.”