By Tim Baxter, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist
NIRMA has received numerous calls this year on haul road agreements, many of which have been developed by the contractor. Contractors generally have their best interest in mind. Signing an agreement developed by a contractor whose likely objective is to haul heavy loads on county roads, thereby causing wear and tear above and beyond normal traffic, rarely is in the county’s best interest.
Never sign an agreement developed by anyone other than a county representative prior to having it reviewed by your county attorney or NIRMA. There are too many risks involved which could lead to significant road damage, the county getting sued, accidents happening, etc.
Due to the large number of calls on this topic, NIRMA attorneys and I have developed a comprehensive model Haul Road Agreement that covers a majority of issues that could possibly arise in these situations.
You will not appreciate the length of agreement, but it is intended to cover all issues to reduce conflicts with the contractor during construction, reduce costs for County taxpayers, and protect the safety of the motoring public. We did our best to address all possible liability and safety issues.
Too often, contractors come through counties using and abusing county roads with no haul road agreements or with agreements that are not thorough enough. This leaves the county with significant expense in repairing roads damaged by the contractor. Many times, the contractor is working on projects that have nothing to do with the county, such as building and operating wind farms, interstate pipelines, cell phone towers, etc. Sometimes contractors need to use one county’s roads to access and build structures in an adjacent county. Common sense must prevail when asking contractors to enter haul road agreements. For instance, a county would not ask truckers during corn harvest to enter a haul road agreement, even though it is tempting, due to the excessively heavy traffic. Harvest is something that is necessary and occurs every year.
One of the most important things a county must do when entering a haul road agreement is to drive, photograph, and video the roads in question prior to allowing a contractor to use a haul road. This provides evidence of the condition of the road prior to the contractor’s use for easier identification of needed repairs after the contractor has completed use of the haul road. Clauses in the model agreement cover damage repairs, as well as a bond clause should a contractor not make necessary repairs after use of haul roads.
It is crucial that the county have updated hourly rates established for use of your equipment, employees, and materials expense, etc. Be sure to document any repairs made to haul roads that will need to be reimbursed via invoice to a contractor.
For the benefit of NIRMA members, you can download a copy of the new model Haul Road Agreement. We advise you to have your county attorney and county board review it prior to using, and to make necessary and appropriate adjustments to fit the needs of the particular situation. If adjustments are made, please take advantage of the opportunity to submit the agreement to NIRMA for further review, to determine if it is unacceptable under the terms of your coverage.