Weight Limits for Vehicles Transporting Maple Sap or Syrup

A letter from Senator Terry Moulton and Representative Bob Kulp

Date: Tuesday, September12, 2017 

Subject: Co-sponsorship of LRB 0366-1 and 2022-1, Weight limits for certain vehicles transporting maple sap or syrup

DEADLINE:  September 19, 2017

 Under current law, vehicles transporting dairy products enjoy a slightly higher maximum weight limit than most transport vehicles. This bill would extend these same weight limits to vehicles transporting maple sap or syrup, increasing their limits from 20,000 lbs per axle to 21,000 lbs or from 35,000 to 37,000 for two axles. This modest increase will allow maple sap producers to transport their product with fewer trips while continuing to comply with local weight limit restrictions that protect roadways during the spring thaw. 

Maple syrup can only be harvested during the spring thaw, when warm daytime temperatures liquefy sap and cool nighttime temperatures draw water back into the trunk, replenishing sap for the next day’s harvest. With the spring thaw underway, some rural roads have reduced maximum weight limits between 20–50%. To get perishable sap to a processer before it spoils, producers often have to resort to multiple trips with half-full trucks that increase costs and reduce efficiency. By matching weight limits for dairy vehicles, producers would still comply with local weight reductions that protect roadways, but would have more flexibility to maximize each trip.

Nationally, Wisconsin ranks fourth in maple syrup production and is first in the midwest. Last season, statewide production increased 9% and has grown 83% over the past five years. Industry leaders like Vermont have had special weight limits or total exemptions in place for decades, while states like Ohio (5th) and Michigan (6th), have recently passed special weight limits or total exemptions from seasonal weight limits as they work to grow their maple syrup industries.

This bill came at the request of maple syrup producers in our districts. We worked with the Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association on this legislation.

If you would like to co-sponsor this legislation, please contact Zach in Senator Moulton’s office at 6-7511 or Jon in Representative Kulp’s s office at 7-0280 by Tuesday, September 19th.

 

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

This bill creates special highway weight limits for certain vehicles transporting maple sap or syrup.

Under current law, in general, no person may operate on a highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles that exceeds certain statutory weight limits unless that person obtains a permit issued by the Department of Transportation or a local highway authority. Among the weight limitations are, generally, limitations on the gross weight imposed on the highway by the wheels of any one axle or by consecutive axles of the vehicle. In general, the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by one axle is 20,000 pounds and the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by two axles that are eight or fewer feet apart is 35,000 pounds.

Currently, special higher weight limits are provided for certain vehicles transporting milk or other dairy supplies and products (dairy vehicles). Specifically, for dairy vehicles, the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by one axle is 21,000 pounds and the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by two axles that are eight or fewer feet apart is 37,000 pounds. Also, for groups of three or more consecutive axles more than nine feet apart on a dairy vehicle, the axles may impose on the highway a weight of 2,000 pounds more than is allowed under general rules. The total weight of the dairy vehicle, however, may not exceed 80,000 pounds.

This bill extends the special weight limits for dairy vehicles to vehicles transporting maple sap or syrup from the point of collection or production to storage or the primary market.

Under current law, if any bill introduced in either house of the legislature directly or indirectly establishes an exception to vehicle weight limitations, DOT must prepare a report, containing specified information, relating to the bill within six weeks after the bill in introduced and before any vote is taken on the bill. This bill directs DOT not to prepare such a report on this bill.

For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be printed as an appendix to this bill.