Logging truckers in Maine this week were given a little relief from the high costs of doing business in the state.
Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill into law Tuesday, Jan. 22, that is intended to give logging truckers some temporary relief from high fuel costs by waiving gross weight limits in the state. The Senate voted earlier in the day to move the bill – LD2155 – to the governor’s desk. House lawmakers approved it a week ago.
“We know that our forest product industry and Maine’s truckers are being hurt by record high diesel prices,” Baldacci said in a written statement. “They are struggling right now, and they need help. With the quick action on this legislation, they’ll get some relief right now.”
At the request of a grass-roots group called the Coalition to Lower Fuel Prices in Maine, the governor proposed the loggers bill that took effect as soon as he signed it. The new law increases 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 will 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 a recent hearing.
Coalition organizer Larry Sidelinger, who is an OOIDA member, said the new law not only offers benefits for log haulers, but also allows the mills they serve to build inventory so they won’t be forced to shut down. It gives mills 5 percent more on every truckload that comes in to help them build inventory for the spring thaw, he said.
Although the effort to temporarily lift weight restrictions has been concluded, Sidelinger said the task of informing legislators about the problems in the trucking industry will continue.
He is scheduled to take part Thursday, Jan. 24, in a workshop with members of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. The officials are expected to focus their attention on such matters in the foresting industry as temporarily suspending axle weight restrictions and a 90-day moratorium on the diesel tax.
Sidelinger said the efforts of many truckers have made recent events at the statehouse and the upcoming discussions possible.
“It’s been a wicked game of chess here. … For a guy who has always held onto the steering wheel of a truck, this is a whole new arena for me,” he told Land Line. “It’s my turn to make a difference.”
To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2008, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor