State Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, both of whom are farmers, are backing a bill that would update transportation rules for agricultural machinery.
Rural roads generally haven't changed as fast or as much as farm equipment, which has gotten bigger and longer. There are rules for weight and size but enforcement has been lax.
Now, some Wisconsin counties concerned about wear and tear on roads are weighing farm vehicles, sometimes ticketing drivers – or in one case temporarily impounding the machinery.
“I know there's at least a half dozen counties that have bought their own portable scales,” said Petrowski.
He and Ripp are sponsoring a bill that would require a no-cost permit for all farm vehicles and machinery that's over 92,000 pounds. Petrowski said it will help farmers avoid tickets and extend the life of roads.
“We don't have enough money to fix all the roads that could be torn up by something that weighs 140,000 pounds,” said Petrowski.
The proposed permit called for in the bill covers weight, length, distance traveled and visibility issues.
Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, said farmers in her district have a lot of questions: “We're starting to put the burden back on the farmer, instead of saying, ‘We need to make sure that we are funding are local roads,’” she said. “We haven't kept up our rural infrastructure to grow our agriculture, a $60 billion industry.”
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation surveyed 1,200 farmers and ag operators; three-quarters of those who responded said they had machinery that exceeds current limits for either weight or size.