SPECIAL REPORT: Minnesota government remains shut down

| 7/6/2005

Truckers bound for Minnesota may want to check their paperwork before they head out.

A partial government shutdown has stalled a number of truckers at the state's borders because they don't have the proper IFTA or IRP trip or fuel permits. And with the state's Department of Transportation offices shut down, drivers who don't already have the permits have no way of obtaining them.

According to Cathy Koncilia in OOIDA's Business Services Department, the association has received a number of phone calls from members who said they were turned away by the Minnesota Highway Patrol at border scales because of oversize loads and lack of permits. That goes for drivers going into and coming out of the state.

A number of media outlets are reporting that Highway Patrol officials said they are instructing officers at both ends of Interstate 94 to send un-permitted trucks around the state, directing them instead through Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

In addition, about 90 rest areas along Minnesota highways remain closed and no new information is being posted on message boards on those same highways. Minnesota's trucking industry has been lobbying lawmakers to at least re-open the rest stops so that drivers can have someplace safe to rest as required by hours-of-service regs.

About 9,000 of the state's 50,000 government workers, many of them in the Department of Transportation, have been locked out of work since July 1, thanks to a legislative deadlock about the state's budget.

State lawmakers were supposed to have come up with a budget by the end of June, but they were unable to agree on several key issues - including school funding and health care for the poor - which is what led to the impasse.

Portions of the state government were shut down on July 1, and had yet to reopen as of July 6. State legislators, however, have vowed to come up with a budget solution by Friday, July 8.

This is the first time in its history that Minnesota's government has shut down, and it is the first state to do so since Tennessee in 2002.

- By Terry Scruton, senior writer