Bill streamlines rules for truckers

Sustainable forest management is essential to maintaining the landscape our state treasures and relies upon for ecosystem services and tourism dollars. During summer and fall of 2021, members of the Legislature’s rural economic development working group conducted a statewide forest economy tour to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing this sector. We used these conversations to inform several legislative proposals with a broad range of tri-partisan support.

I was a lead sponsor on one bill, H.673, that came as a direct result of the tour. We heard extensively about the difficulties truckers in the forest products industry face due to both Vermont’s lower truck weight limits than our neighbors to the west and north, where many of the value-added markets are, as well as the administrative burden of truckers having to apply to each Vermont municipality individually for a permit to operate on town roads.

The first proposal in H.673 is to create a special annual permit to enable six- and seven-axle trucks up to 107,000 pounds and 117,000 pounds, respectively, to travel on state highways and certain class 1 roads.

Fees collected from the new overweight permits would help offset additional road maintenance costs.

Currently, the maximum excess weight permit Vermont trucks carrying forest products can obtain is 99,000 pounds, although heavier excess weight permits are issued for non-divisible loads such as precast cement or large equipment. Despite the role of the seventh axle in further distributing the weight and adding braking capacity, seven-axle trucks currently have the same weight limits as six-axle trucks.

Commodities derived from Vermont’s forests, such as logs or pulpwood, frequently cross jurisdictional boundaries to have value added to them in a manufacturing process. This is especially common as Vermont has seen unprecedented closures of sawmills and other wood manufacturing businesses in the last 50 years.

Efficient transportation of forest products to market allows for effective use of fuel, equipment, infrastructure and human resources. It also enables the maximum economic return to the forest economy supply chain, which begins in privately owned forestland.

The second proposal in H.673 sets a date by which the Department of Motor Vehicles must have an operational, centralized online permitting system.

Truckers that serve a broad geographic area must currently apply for separate, individual permits in most Vermont’s towns, which includes requesting that their insurance agent issue a separate certificate of insurance to each municipality along with the permit application.

The centralized online permitting system through the department will significantly decrease the administrative burden of trucking in Vermont and streamline the permitting process.

Lucy Rogers, a Democrat from Waterville, also represents Cambridge in the Vermont House of Representatives.