Wisconsin increases certain truck weights; considers expanding access

| 3/27/2006

Despite warnings from his state’s DOT, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill into law March 21 increasing the weight logging trucks can carry in Wisconsin year round.

The effort is one of two trucking-related bills to recently draw consideration in the Legislature.

The new law, which takes effect May 20, allows 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.

Doyle signed the bill – AB678 – despite warnings from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that the heavier trucks will cause heavy damage to roads and bridges, The Associated Press reported. Others say the heavier trucks will increase the risk of accidents.

Supporters say that without the heavier load limits, the state’s forestry industry will be at a competitive disadvantage with bordering states.

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 98,000 pounds during four months of the winter. Those trucks are limited 90,000 pounds for the rest of the year.

Another effort would expand the range that trucks can operate in and bring state law into compliance with recent changes in the trucking industry.

The measure expanding truck access is awaiting the governor’s 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 DOT 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.