Tim Skubick: Mich. legislators going after truck weights

Tim Skubick: Mich. legislators going after truck weights

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Raise your hand if you enjoy sharing the roads with mammoth heavy duty trucks barreling down on you. They also block both lanes on the freeway, go extra slow which drives you nuts or they splash snow or rain on your car as they go whizzing by.

And that doesn't include the damage they do to the roads year in year out.

Which is why key legislative leaders are going after truck weights which in Michigan are the highest in the nation although that is a tad mis-leading.  More on that in a moment.

When it was reported last week that House Speaker Jase Bolger and his Democratic counter-part Rep. Tim Greimel were deeply involved in closed door negoiations to add more money to the road repair kitty, the two confirmed that the trucker issue was on the table.

"That is absolutely part of the conversation.  We hear that loud and clear from our citizens," Mr. Bolger reports and Mr. Greimel echoes, "I think we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to preserve roads that we have and to make sure commercial trucks are paying their fair share."  

Does that mean he wants to lower the truck weights"

"Absolutely," he confirms.

That shout of joy you just heard comes from motorists just like you who blame the truckers for all those pot holes.

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-Oakland County) is one of those reporting, "I saw a very large truck literally pulling up the pavement as it went by."

Take a deep breath Senate GOP leader Randy Richardville suggests adding, "You gotta be careful what you ask for."

Check this out.

The Monroe Republican concedes trucks around here haul twice the weight of their comrades in other states but, "we have twice as many axles so the amount of weight per axel is the same as other states."  Plus he adds, "it's not just the weight, it's the shifting weight" that causes the damage.

Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Upper Peninsula) has been in the logging business for 27 years and this is not the first time he's run into legislative efforts to regulate truck weights.

He argues the "science and engineering is on our side" and when you use that, "we win."

Mr. Casperson explains, and don't shout at him yet, "if you start splitting our trucks up, now you double the number of trucks on the highway and people will complain about that."  And, of course, he's right.

Ironically the road building lobby, which stands to make a bundle if lawmakers find an additional $400-500 million smackers, doesn't want to mess around with the weight issue either.

Their equipment from earth-movers to bulldozers to concrete paving machines weight a ton and lobbyist Lance Binoniemi argues, "I don't know if we are agreeable to lowering the weights but if we need to pay a little bit more in fees or fines, we're more than happy to negotiate and talk with leadership on those issues.

Senator Casperson and his truck buddies have won this battle every time and he pledges to "get our ducks in a row" to win it again.

But he worries that decisions won't be made on science;  it will be made on emotions in this politically charged debate between the average Joe driver and the average Joe trucker.

And Mr. C concedes on emotions, "we lose every time."

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