Steel-wheel damage becomes question of how much

OSAGE, Iowa - Do white marks on the highway caused by a steel-wheel tractor constitute damage?

OSAGE, Iowa - Do white marks on the highway caused by a steel-wheel tractor constitute damage?

John Ray Nolt, 30, of Alta Vista, who was charged with violating Iowa Code Section 321.442, which forbids wheels with protuberances that damage the highway, said they do not. Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk said they do, and Magistrate DeDra Schroeder found John Ray Nolt guilty following a bench trial Sept. 17.

In her ruling Schroeder wrote that "the elements of the offense were proven by the county, it is not necessary to determine the amount of injury that resulted to the road."

She fined John Ray Nolt $20 plus $72 in court costs. She also fined him $50 plus $77.50 in court costs for violating the road protection ordinance, which he pleaded guilty to prior to the trial.

Mitchell County Deputy Sheriff Greg Huftalin testified that he received a call on July 16 that white wheel tracks on hard-surfaced Addison Avenue led to a red Massey Ferguson tractor with steel wheels parked at E. and E. Welding, located on the blacktop road. When he asked owner Eli Zimmerman whose tractor it was, he said it belonged to John Ray Nolt. When the deputy went to his house, John Ray Nolt told him that he had driven the tractor.


Entered as exhibits were photos Huftalin took of the white marks on the highway and the tractor.

John Ray Nolt asked Huftalin if the white marks were damage. Huftalin said he didn't have the expertise to say.

County Engineer Richard Brumm testified that when steel wheels drive on hard surface roads, they pulverize and damage the aggregate.

Walk asked if it was possible for a steel wheel vehicle to drive on a hard surface road without causing damage. Brumm said it was not.

John Ray Nolt asked the cost of the damage.

"It's hard to say," Brumm said. "It accelerates the deterioration. Maybe a road that would last 20 years would only last 10 to 15 years."

John Ray Nolt showed Brumm photos from a booklet his father, John Henry Nolt, who lives in Pennsylvania, prepared. The booklet included photos of the blacktop lane on the elder Nolt's farm that he constructed 17 years ago.

"Why is this 17-year old lane not worse than it is if it has steel wheels driving on it," John Ray Nolt asked Brumm.


"I see damage just like on the highway," Brumm said.

John Ray Nolt showed photos his father took of other hard surface roads in Pennsylvania that receive heavy steel wheel traffic.

"There are marks on the road but is that damage?" John Ray Nolt said. "Usage? Yes. Damage? No."

Walk objected to the booklet saying it lacked foundation and relevance. Schroeder said she would allow it but would consider Walk's concerns.

Eli Zimmerman testified he could see no difference in the condition of Addison Avenue, other than usage marks, from when it was resurfaced five years ago to now. The road has had a lot of steel-wheel traffic to the Cedar Valley Produce Auction.

Walk asked Zimmerman if he was an expert on roads and if he made steel wheels at his welding shop. He said he was not an expert and occasionally he made steel wheels.

Harlan Nolt of Riceville said if steel wheels caused as much damage as Brumm said, Addison Avenue and the driveway to the produce auction, which have received a lot of steel wheel traffic, would show far more deterioration.

"I would like to know what is considered damage and what is considered use of the road," Harlan Nolt said.


Walk asked Harlan Nolt if he had a steel-wheel tractor, and he said he did.

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