Wisconsin expands truck access; increases log truck weights

| 4/24/2006

A new law in Wisconsin is intended to ease the transport of freight to surrounding states.

Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill to expand the range that trucks can operate in without a permit and bring state law into compliance with recent changes in the trucking industry. The effort is one of a handful of trucking-related bills signed by the governor in recent weeks.

The measure expanding truck access takes effect Aug. 1.

Assemblyman Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, said the new law, previously 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 new rule will permit greater access for vehicle combinations up to 75 feet in overall length, and with a trailer up to 53 feet, with a kingpin-to-axle setting up to 43 feet.

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

Access to and from such highways also will 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.

Another trucking-related bill signed by Gov. Doyle increases the weight logging trucks can carry year round.

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 extra damage to roads and bridges, The Associated Press reported. Opponents 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 to 90,000 pounds for the rest of the year.

Doyle signed another bill that is intended to give livestock transporters a wider variety of trailer options by eliminating certain requirements on trailer axles.

Current Wisconsin law, with limited exceptions, prohibits operating a single vehicle that exceeds 40 feet in length without obtaining a permit from WisDOT.

The new law, previously AB556, eliminates the requirement that the trailer axles be separated by at least 8 feet or be three axles in tandem. Instead, it requires that the trailer be equipped with at least two axles.

The new rule takes effect May 4.

One other farming bill signed into law is intended to help farmers transport crops during harvest by allowing certain vehicle combinations to exceed weight limits for three months out of the year.

The new law, previously AB510, automatically increases road weight limits by 15 percent from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 each year for hauling agricultural crops from the field to the farm for storage or to the processing plant.

Existing state law requires a request to be submitted in writing to WisDOT to declare a harvest emergency.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor