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10Investigates: New law means Knox Co. missing $250 thousand in overweight truck fines

Knox County has the second busiest truck scales in the country--but a new law means fines from trucks that are overweight won't go to the county.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County officials are scrambling to make up hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue after a new law changed the way citations for overweight trucks are handled. 

As of Jan. 1, THP officers are not issuing criminal citations to drivers of overweight trucks. Fees from those citations amounted to nearly $250 thousand in 2018--a large part of it paid to the Knox County clerk's office.

"When you look at the amount of truck traffic that goes through here from I-40, 75 and 81, it’s easy to understand why we’re so busy and why we’ve been able to collect a lot of revenue," Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond said.

The scales in Knox County are the second busiest in the country. After the law change drivers will still pay a fine per overweight pound to the state--but will not face a fine paid to the county government.

"The state is going to get their money, but we're not going to get any," Hammond said. "So we've basically been cut out of the equation."

The law was proposed by State Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport). He introduced the bill after one of the drivers for the trucking company he owned got a citation. 

He says the previous law was unfair when truckers paid both a criminal charge to the county and a civil fee to the state. 

"You gotta play in one ball field or the other," he said. 

Plus, he says the fines shouldn't just go to counties with scales. 

"There's only six set of scales in the state of Tennessee, so you only have six counties getting the revenue off the criminal side." 

For counties like Knox that relied on that money, finding a way to make up for the loss is going to be tough.

"I don't think there's any question it will have an impact," Hammond said. "I just don't know the effect yet."

The clerk office says it's going to try bridging the gap by collecting more money from people who owe court costs, but that's likely to only net them at most 20 percent of what they had before.

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