Supreme Court: Morgantown council can’t ban heavy truck traffic along Route 7 downtown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In a written opinion handed down Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that said the City of Morgantown did not have jurisdiction to enact a truck ban on state roads in the city’s downtown area.

A Kanawha County circuit judge’s decision in January 2015 called the city truck ban unenforceable. The city appealed the lower court ruling to the High Court.

Nuzum Trucking Co., Greer Industries and Preston Contractors Inc. filed the original suit after Morgantown City Council voted in a 5-2 to prohibit “heavy trucks” from traveling through the downtown along state Route 7. The attempted ban identified heavy trucks as those exceeding 26,000 pounds gross weight with three or more axles.

Following Thursday’s ruling, Nuzum Trucking Co. president and owner, Roger Nuzum, said it is common sense that municipal ordinances don’t supercede state mandates.

“If they won that case, every little town and maybe even unincorporated towns in West Virginia would’ve passed similar laws. The eventuality could’ve been truck traffic would’ve been pretty much halted in West Virginia,” Nuzum predicted. “You’ve probably seen the motto. If you got it, a truck brought it.”

Supreme Court justices, in a decision released Thursday, wrote local authorities have the power to prohibit the operation of trucks or to impose limitations on the size or weight thereof only “with respect to highways under their jurisdiction.”

In previous hearings, representatives for the DOH argued Route 7 was deemed a primary road in 1935 and falls under the agency’s jurisdiction.

Nuzum, whose business is located in Shinnston, said he’s told council members he empathize with municipal leaders trying to cut down on truck traffic but federal law restricts his drivers from hauling full loads on the interstate.

“I also told them I didn’t want to truck, necessarily, through downtown Morgantown. But, it’s an economic necessity for us. It’s a shorter route to the destination. And, under current state law our trucks can haul 4 to 5 ton more per payload going through state highways,” explained Nuzum.

According to the decision, “the only authority granted to a municipality over connecting parts of the state road system is the regulation of traffic, and that authority does not include regulating the size or weight of vehicles traveling thereon.”

Click to read the full ruling.