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Audit faults MDOT’s monitoring of overweight trucks

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News
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Lansing — A state audit issued Thursday found fault with the Michigan Department of Transportation’s monitoring and permitting procedures for oversize and overweight trucks, billboards, junkyards and construction projects affecting roadways.

Based on 2013 and 2014 data, the Michigan Auditor General said, MDOT undercharged for 105,244 overweight/oversized vehicle permits, couldn’t document compliance procedures against 198 illegal billboards and hadn’t inspected the state’s 29 junkyards in nearly 30 years.

The department accepted most of the findings, but pointed out permit fees for extra-heavy vehicles are set by lawmakers in state statutes, not MDOT, and said lack of federal funding essentially shut down its junkyard inspection program. A 2014 bill to boost oversize vehicle permit fees passed the House but not the Senate.

Among the auditors’ findings:

■Of the 105,244 oversize/overweight vehicle permits — issued in 2013 — 51 were for loads exceeding 400,000 pounds. The load limit on Michigan roads, without special permits, is 164,000 pounds.

Analysts said Michigan should consider an increase in the fees, which are substantially below those charges in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. They also suggested the department conduct a study to determine if super-heavy vehicles cause a disproportionate share of highway damage.

■The department didn’t have a program to assess the efficiency and cost of staff time to process 96 types of permits covering billboards, construction projects, junkyards and oversize trucks.

■MDOT didn’t consistently comply with its own procedures on thousands of permits issued for construction projects affecting roadways, such as driveways, ditch clean-outs and pipe installation.

■Failure to follow procedures included 18 permits issued to transport loads exceeding 450,000 pounds on state highways. The auditors said required approval from section managers wasn’t obtained.

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