ITD permits office helps keep Idaho commerce moving

Note: The following is the first story in a new Transporter series, Unsung Champions, that looks at ITD employees who play key roles in Idaho’s mobility, safe travel and economic opportunity. All are cornerstones of the department’s strategic plan. Please send suggestions for future stories on ITD sections, units or offices to The Transporter.

The next time you see an electrical generator, windmill blade or oversized piece of construction equipment being transported down the highway, think of a small group of ITD employees who make it happen.

ITD’s overlegal permits office, normally a quiet player in the state’s economy, rose to prominence in 2010-2011 when contract haulers transported large loads for ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobile in north-central Idaho.

Although those loads and the purpose behind them drew a lot of public attention, ITD has helped facilitate such moves for years without incident. One of the largest loads, explains Reymundo Rodriguez, Idaho Motor Carrier Services manager, was a tank. The oil company equipment weighed 1.3 million pounds, was 20 feet wide, 17 feet high, 345 feet long and was carried on a special vehicle combination with 29 axles.

It moved safely on a highway in southeast Idaho.

“We do everything we can to try to make things work, but we do not compromise safety,” Rodriguez insists. The movement of oversize loads “supports the mission of ITD because safety has to be taken into consideration for all of the moves. The transports may require pilot cars on designated routes as well as other safety considerations, such as two-way radio communication, signs, flags, time of travel and other considerations.

“We try to route them to ensure the vehicle combination can travel safety to that location.”

Permit writers must consider the size of the load, highway and bridge conditions, transport schedules and weather when issuing permits to move over-legal loads. The primary consideration is safety for the traveling public and protection of the highways and bridges.

Safe movement of those loads is crucial to Idaho’s economy, from agricultural producers, to mobile home manufacturers, construction companies and interstate commerce.

Dennis Kozisek, 42, is one of the unit’s five permit writers. An ITD employee since 2007, Kozisek takes his job seriously, considering it a ground version of an air traffic controller.

“We’re basically ground traffic control; but we don’t have the luxury of knowing all the kinds of traffic that surround the loads.”

Very meticulous by nature, Kozisek is concerned about public safety when issuing permits. “One mistake, one bad move, is all it takes for us to have major issues,” he said. He won’t issue a permit unless he’s absolutely sure of safety.

The importance of his job and that of ITD’s overlegal permits office often are overlooked, perhaps minimized, he suggests. He averages 60-70 calls per day and is challenged to balance the need for permits with travel safety.

He would like to have more time to research new permits and renewal requests, but acknowledges that will require more resources. Still, he works with passion, wants to offer high-value, high-quality work and takes pride in his efforts.

Rodriguez describes his staff as quick and efficient. The office receives about 175 calls daily and up to 250-275 during the peak summer season. Add requests for information into the mix and call volumes can reach 1,000 per week.

Writers issue 66,000 to 68,000 permits during a typical year, he explains. Most are annual permits to haulers who transport over-legal loads in Idaho on a regular basis. Other permits are for single-transports.

Many requests and renewals can be issued during a single call. More complex transports can take three days or longer as staff has to coordinate with other ITD personnel, depending on size, traffic conditions and the amount of highway and bridge analysis needed.

Vehicle size and weight specialist Reggie Phipps sometimes works with customers during the manufacturing process to advise potential shippers on how they can design or configure their loads to meet Idaho requirements. She has been with ITD for approximately 24 years and is an authority on over-legal requirements.

Published 6-1-2012