Minnesota law offers emissions reduction incentive; heavier truck bill dies

| 6/7/2007

Two bills of interest have gone in different directions at the Minnesota capitol.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill into law that benefits truckers who want to reduce emissions. A provision was added to a Senate omnibus bill – SF2096 – that makes loans available to school districts and small trucking firms to install equipment to reduce fuel consumption.

The measure earmarks $2.4 million during the next two years for trucks and buses to be retrofitted.

A separate initiative to increase some truck weight limits has died. It sought to increase the gross vehicle weight of trucks allowed on certain roads in the state.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, the bill – SF438 – would have permitted truckers hauling timber, forest products and raw farm products to load heavier on state and county roads. Load limits on interstates would not have changed.

It called for allowing six-axle trucks with gross weights of 90,000 pounds and seven-axle trucks up to 97,000 pounds on the affected roadways. State law now limits them to 80,000 pounds.

The House version – HF1351 – also failed to gain passage.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation and others supported the effort. They said boosting truck weight limits would reduce congestion by loading up more stuff on fewer trucks, the Winona Daily News reported.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the proposed weight limits could cause problems down the road for truckers and other drivers. They are concerned about road safety and highway and bridge deterioration. Others said allowing certain trucks to haul heavier loads will lead to more trucks demanding similar privileges.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor