Bill to increase truck access heads to Wisconsin governor for final OK

| 3/1/2006

The Wisconsin Senate has approved a bill that would expand the range that trucks can operate in and bring state law into compliance with recent changes in the trucking industry.

The effort is one of two trucking-related bills drawing a lot of consideration in the Legislature.

The measure widening truck access, which the Assembly already approved, now heads to Gov. Jim Doyle for his signature.

Assemblyman Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, said the legislation – AB315 – is needed to address a changing industry and help spur economic development in the state.

“This bill has been a long time coming,” Petrowski said in a written statement. “AB315 simply ensures that the law is up-to-date for communities and truckers.”

Existing state law prohibits any combination of two vehicles with an overall length more than 65 feet from running on a highway, unless the operator has special permits.

The bill would permit greater access for vehicle combinations up to 75 feet in overall length, and with a trailer up to 53 feet, with a kingpin setting up to 43 feet.

Such combinations would be permitted to operate on all state trunk highways, including interstate highways, except those identified by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as “not suitable to accommodate such vehicle lengths.”

Access to and from such highways also would be extended from five to 15 miles to access highways designated by the department or to reach certain services or destinations. Existing rules limit the distance to five miles.

The bill would require the department to submit implementing rules within two months of becoming law.

Another effort before the Legislature would increase the weight logging trucks could carry under certain circumstances.

Sponsored by Rep. Donald Friske, R-Merrill, the bill would allow logging trucks to weigh up to 98,000 pounds. Truck drivers would need a permit and an additional axle to haul loads up to the 49-ton limit.

Existing Wisconsin law limits trucks to 80,000 pounds on roads in the state. Trucks hauling fruit, vegetables and raw forest products are allowed to transport up to 90,000 pounds without a permit.

Opponents say the heavier trucks would damage roadways and increase the risk of accidents, according to reports from WEAU-TV in Eau Claire, WI. Supporters say that without the heavier load limits, the state’s forestry industry will be at a competitive disadvantage with bordering states.

The bill – AB678 – is before the Senate Job Creation, Economic Development and Consumer Affairs Committee. It passed the Assembly earlier this year.