SPRINGFIELD – Farmers should be given a little leeway during harvest time when it comes to truck weight limits, said state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville.
Black is proposing a new state law barring law enforcement officials from using portable scales to weigh agricultural trucks on non-interstate highways between Sept. 15 and Nov. 30 of each year.
He said farmers do not have scales in the fields, and therefore must estimate the weight of their trucks the best they can, but variances in moisture content or size of corn kernels or beans can throw off those estimates.
"Sometimes the fine exceeds the profit that will be made from that truckload of beans or corn," Black noted.
Police and local authorities who check truck weights are just doing their jobs, and are not to be blamed, he said.
"You can't ask them not to enforce the law, so this bill just says OK, we're going to try to change the law a little bit," Black said.
Black admitted that passing House Bill 3859 will be a very difficult task, as the Township Officials of Illinois, the county highway engineers, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police have already told him they do not support the idea.
"I know I may be jousting at windmills here, but I think it's a cause worth fighting for," Black said.
Bryan Smith, executive director of Township Officials of Illinois, said he has not seen Black's latest bill, but it is an issue that's come up before and the organization has always opposed it.
"Obviously the weights are hurting the roads, and local governments and townships in general are squeezed for every penny they get," Smith said. "They are just trying to protect their local constituents and make sure the roads are not damaged. The township just can't continually go in there and repair and repair all over again."
But Black said farmers are not deliberately damaging the roads in the areas where they live and work, and added that if farmers are run out of business, they will no longer be there to provide the road use fees that help pay for the road upgrades.
Kevin Semlow, associate director of state legislation for Illinois Farm Bureau, said while the organization's board has yet to take an official stance on Black's bill, it is supportive of the concept.
"I know our members are very interested in that," Semlow said. "It opens up the subject on the bigger picture, which is the differentiation between local roads and state roads."
The Farm Bureau would like to see a uniform 80,000-pound weight limit in almost all cases, rather than the current system where local roads have a lower weight limit, Semlow said.
The Township Officials of Illinois oppose that idea as well, Smith said.
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