The House and Senate transportation conference committee is at odds over raising the allowable truck weights for freight loads on Minnesota roads. Most Minnesota trucks are limited to 80,000 pounds on five axle trucks. The Senate transportation budget bill would allow 90,000 pounds for a six-axle truck and 97,000 pounds for a seven-axle truck. The proposal, which wouldn’t apply to federal interstate highways, would allow the heavier trucks to receive permits for 10-ton local and state roads.
The House didn’t hear the weight increases this session. The increases are included in the Senate’s transportation budget bill. In conference committee on Wednesday night, the House presented a counteroffer to the Senate on the omnibus bill’s policy provisions that remained in opposition to the truck weights.
The issue has been a battle this session between the aggregate industry and the short-line railroad industry. Fred Corrigan, executive director of the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of Minnesota, told the conferees the six and seven axle trucks would have more wheels to distribute the weight of the load and would have less wear and tear on the roads. He also said the increased axles would have more brakes and more stopping power than five axle trucks. Corrigan said the Menard’s hardware and appliance chain would like to build a distribution center in Minnesota.
“The thing that’s holding them back isn’t our tax climate or our transportation infrastructure. It’s our unrealistic truck weight limits,” Corrigan said.
The move is opposed by short line rail road interests who would see a reduction in the freight that moves on their lines if heavier trucks are allowed.
John Apitz, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Regional Railroads Association, disagreed that the trucks wouldn’t damage roads and would be safer. He said the increased amount of weight that’s moving along the road would make wear and tear on roads.
“When it comes to trucks, size does matter. Heavier trucks are harder to stop, regardless of how many brakes you put on a number of axles. It’s plain, basic physics,” Apitz said.
The Teamsters Joint Council 32 union and the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association are opposed to the Senate position. But the Senate has influential support for the weight increases from Senate Taxes Chair Rod Skoe. In addition, Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz in March wrote a letter to Senate Transportation Chair Scott Dibble calling for the weight increase. He noted that South Dakota and North Dakota have higher weight restrictions than Minnesota.
“In the short term, increasing truck weights will allow Minnesota companies to more effectively compete and integrate within the region while respecting the safety of those on the road,” Walz said.
The transportation budget bill is among a handful of budget bills that need to pass before the legislative session concludes May 20.