ELECTION 2014: Wisconsin governor active on various transportation issues

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/25/2014

Wisconsin is one of the more than two-thirds of states where voters will decide this fall on who will be the governor for at least the next four years.

Up for re-election is Gov. Scott Walker. The Republican has been active the past four years acting on bills that cover topics that include indemnification, truck regulations and transportation revenue.

His opponent on the ballot is Democrat Mary Burke.

During Walker’s first year in office he signed into law multiple rule changes for truck drivers. The most notable change was a new rule to forbid indemnification clauses in motor carrier transportation contracts.

The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

The three-year-old law defines affected contracts as “any agreement, regardless of whether it is written, oral, express, or implied,” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, or any service incidental to such activity, including the story of property.”

“This legislation protects motor carriers form the negligence or intentional acts of others,” Walker said at the bill signing.

Other actions taken during the 2011 session were intended to ease some truck regulations. They include:

  • SB222 allows WisDOT to issue overweight permits for sealed containers. Specifically, the rule applies to trucks with six or more axles hauling up to 90,000 pounds.
  • SB223 created a new multiple-trip divisible load permit for hauling agricultural products like fruit, grain, vegetables and livestock.
  • AB252 authorizes certain vehicles or vehicle combos moving agricultural crops to, without a permit, exceed weight limits by as much as 15 percent from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 each year.
  • AB253 extends the limit for transporting poles, pipe or girders longer than 40 feet to 65 feet for a single vehicle without a permit and 120 feet for combos.
  • AB248 authorizes WisDOT to issue consecutive month permits for vehicles transporting over-height loads of hay or straw.

Walker said at the time that helping truckers would benefit the state’s economy.

“Making it easier to transport products will lower the cost of doing business in Wisconsin and make it easier for those in the private sector to create more jobs.”

This spring, Walker signed a bill into law that provides a boost in spending for certain highway projects through an unexpected surplus in the state transportation fund.

The new law increased road spending by pushing up the starting dates of road and bridge projects before the fiscal year that ended June 30. The switch gives the state more ability to take on additional projects in the next fiscal year.

Walker said the additional $43 million for highway work would help the state maintain “one of the strongest pillars necessary for a growing economy.”

Projects expected to benefit include maintenance, resurfacing, pavement replacement and bridge rehabilitation in Brown, Calumet, Door, Douglas, Langlade, Lincoln, Monroe, Outagamie, Sauk, Taylor and Walworth counties.

Also signed into law this year is a new rule that covers left lane use. The change, which took effect immediately, gets rid of a requirement for passing drivers to alert vehicles ahead.

Wisconsin law previously required drivers impeding traffic to make way and move to the right for overtaking vehicles when they hear an “audible signal” that he or she intends to pass.

The rule change removes the requirement for passing vehicles to give an audible signal, such as honking the horn, to warn the vehicles ahead that they are being overtaken.

For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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