Maine legislative panel OKs bill to ease weight restrictions for loggers

| Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Maine Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday, Jan. 17, that includes a bill intended to give logging truckers in the state some temporary relief from high fuel costs by waiving gross weight limits. Another bill would restrict the substances that can be applied to roadways for snow removal.

At the request of a group called the Coalition to Lower Fuel Prices in Maine, Gov. John Baldacci proposed the loggers bill that now heads to the full House and Senate for final consideration before moving to the governor’s desk.

Sponsored by Rep. Boyd Marley, D-Portland, the measure would increase truck weight limits from 100,000 pounds to 105,000 pounds for six-axle tractor-trailers hauling forest products on Maine highways until April 1, 2008.

Supporters say the 5 percent increase in weight limits would allow loggers to consolidate loads and save money on fuel. The forest products industry, particularly independent truck drivers in the state, has been hit hard by escalating fuel costs, they say.

“We simply cannot afford to lose independent truckers,” Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono, told lawmakers at the hearing.

Opponents who did not speak at the hearing say that while they are sympathetic to truckers’ plight, they are opposed to anything that results in fewer revenues from the state’s fuel tax. Others say they have safety concerns about allowing heavier trucks on the state’s roads and bridges.

The House and Senate are expected to approve the bill – LD2155 – during the floor session scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22. Baldacci is expected to sign the bill into law later that same day. It would take effect immediately.

Another bill – LD2040 – expected to draw consideration Thursday in the Transportation Committee would ban the use of liquid calcium chloride on all roads in the state for snow removal.

The substance is touted for its ability to aggressively liquefy snow and ice and improve traction for vehicles, but it also has been blamed for being highly corrosive and damaging road and bridge hardware and surfaces, as well as vehicles.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor