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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. GEORGE RICHARD MILLS (05/17/85)

filed: May 17, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
GEORGE RICHARD MILLS



Appeal from the Order of August 10, 1983 in the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County, Criminal Division, at No. 166 C.R. 1982.

COUNSEL

Howard W. Bischoff, Assistant District Attorney, Pittsburgh, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Dwight L. Koerber, Jr., Clearfield, for appellee.

Olszewski, Hester and Shiomos, JJ.*fn*

Author: Hester

[ 342 Pa. Super. Page 364]

This appeal is from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County holding that appellee, George Richard Mills, could not be penalized under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4945(b) for operating his tractor trailer combination at a gross weight in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4943(b). In support of its order, the lower court held that the application of § 4945(b) to this particular weight violation abridged equal protection of the law. Although not for the reasons relied upon by the lower court, we affirm.

Appellee is a truck driver employed by Butler Trucking Company of Woodland, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. On June 7, 1982, appellee was operating a 1976 White Freightliner tractor, pulling a flatbed trailer carrying refractories. Appellee was operating his tractor/trailer unit, which was registered with the Department of Transportation at a maximum gross weight of 80,000 lbs., on Interstate Highway 80 in Clarion County when he was ordered by state police to stop at a weigh station.

Appellee's unit contained five axles. One axle served as the steering axle and the remaining four axles were situated in two groups of two axles. The first group was placed at the rear of the tractor, and the second group was placed at the rear of the trailer. The gross weight on these two groups of axles exceeded by 6,900 lbs the limit allowed by § 4943(b)(1). The weight limit in § 4943(b)(1) is calculated by the "bridge formula" which involves the distance between the extreme axles in the two groups and the number of axles in a group. Having found an overload of

[ 342 Pa. Super. Page 365]

§ 4945(b) of $1,115.00.*fn1

6,900 lbs., the state police imposed a fine calculated by

Appellee was found guilty by a district justice and subsequently filed an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County. Appellee did not challenge the propriety of the weighing procedure nor did he contest the guilty verdict. He conceded that he was systematically stopped and that the actual weighing was properly conducted by a duly certified law enforcement team. Rather, appellee asserted that the penalty provision of § 4945(b) did not apply to weight violations calculated by the "bridge formula" of § 4943(b)(1).

The lower court agreed, ruling that penalties imposed under § 4945(b) apply solely to violations of § 4943(a). This latter section provides maximum weights for individual axles. Section 4945(b) is subject to the driver's right to reduce or readjust the load, which, according to the lower court, may enable him to escape penalty. The lower court noted that whether the driver readjusts his load will not affect his violation of the "bridge formula." This formula calculated the weight dispersed over all weight-carrying axles on appellee's unit. Any readjusting would not avoid a violation. Therefore, the court concluded that section 4945(b) could not apply to "bridge formula" violators because it ...


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