One Greater Minnesota lawmaker says fines against dairy producers for overweight transport trucks isn’t a case of crying over spilled milk — it’s hurting some of those in the state’s agriculture industry.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) sponsors HF1725, passed 75-54 Friday by the House, which would create a weight-limit exception for certain trucks transporting unprocessed milk on Minnesota highways.
It would establish a 10 percent weight limit increase for single-unit vehicles — not semitrailer trucks — to transport milk from the point of production to another production facility, or to the first point of processing. The exemption would increase the maximum weight from 80,000 pounds to 88,000 pounds.
No special permit would be required.
“These are the smaller trucks we find are needed to navigate the smaller dairy farms — and the topographies upon which they’re located — very prevalent in southeastern Minnesota,” Drazkowski said.
The bill’s language is also included in the omnibus transportation bill. That legislation was repassed earlier this week in the House, as amended by conference committee, and now awaits Senate action. It faces a likely veto by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Minnesota’s milk truck weight limit exemptions are generally lower than surrounding states, Drazkowski said. Aside from limiting Minnesota dairy farmers, he added, it is also causing issues for producers transporting liquid milk across state borders.
“We are becoming an island,” Drazkowski said.
Milk trucks would still be subject to some spring load limits and bridge restrictions, as well as maximum weight ratings for tires and vehicle gross weight limits.
Department of Transportation, county and township officials have expressed concern with the bill, citing mounting road and bridge maintenance needs — and a dearth of funding for them — across the state.
Truck weights are a frequent feature of legislative transportation debates. Proponents of relaxing the restrictions contend that higher limits will mean fewer trucks and less stress on the state’s highways. Opponents say higher weights would just mean more wear and tear.
“Let’s get the [omnibus] transportation bill done and adequately fund our rural roads and bridges,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls). “And then maybe we can talk about truck weights.”
An amendment adopted on the House Floor eliminated a provision that would have directed the Department of Transportation to complete a study on deficient bridges in areas of the state where fluid milk is transported.
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