Special permits now available for milk trucks to exceed 80,000 pounds on interstate highways
Governor Tom Wolf today put Pennsylvania's milk producers and haulers in a much stronger competitive position relative to other states as he signed Senate Bill 1108 into law, enacting reforms long-sought-after by the state's dairy industry.
The bill, now known as Act 34, enables the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to issue milk-hauling trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds special permits to travel on Pennsylvania's interstate highways. Previously, federal law limited how states could treat bulk milk shipments, effectively banning them from most of the commonwealth's interstate highways, but that limitation was removed in December after President Obama signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.
According to Governor Wolf, the new law offers economic benefits for Pennsylvania's dairy producers, and it offers improved safety conditions for drivers on local and rural roads.
"This bill allows us to ship milk much more efficiently," said Governor Wolf. "Allowing trucks carrying bulk loads of milk to use the interstate highway system could save many dairy producers thousands of dollars a year in hauling costs – and it will divert trucks with heavier loads from local roads and bridges onto those with the capacity to support these hauls. This bill is a win-win for Pennsylvania's agriculture industry and its transportation infrastructure."
These new special permits will allow more milk to be shipped with fewer trucks, reducing the cost of moving milk to processors before reaching the market. Without these special permits, Pennsylvania's producers were at a competitive disadvantage because dairy producers had to rely on more trucks and more frequent trips to move a comparable volume of product, which led to higher costs to the in-state producer.
For years, states such as New York, Ohio and West Virginia have had higher interstate weight limits. The FAST Act provision paved the way for 17 states, including Pennsylvania, to more closely align its weight limits with neighboring states.
The governor was joined today by state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, as well as state Senator Mario Scavello (PA-40), who sponsored the bill, and state Representative Michael Carroll (PA-118), who sponsored the amendment allowing special permits for milk haulers.
"On behalf of the state's dairy producers, I want to thank Governor Wolf for signing this incredibly important piece of legislation, and Sen. Scavello and Rep. Carroll for their work in securing its passage," said Secretary Redding. "I also want to recognize that it was the president and Congress that created the framework for us to be able to do this. Even though fuel costs are relatively low, the dairy market is incredibly competitive and in the midst of a low price environment. Dairy producers are looking for any help they can get to control costs and operate more efficiently. This law offers a big help."
"Transportation is the backbone of our economy, and this added flexibility for Pennsylvania's milk haulers is a welcomed development," Secretary Richards said. "Our interstate system can accommodate these special loads, and PennDOT works very hard to monitor the system to ensure the safe movement of this and all segments of our commerce."
"In order for Pennsylvania's dairy farmers and related industries to remain competitive, an increase in the weight of trucks hauling milk consistent with federal law was critical to ensure our state's dairy farms thrive into the future," Rep. Carroll said of today's bill signing.
"This provision will improve the stability of trucks loaded with fluid milk, impacting businesses and consumers in every region across the commonwealth and every state across the nation," Sen. Scavello said. "This provision, allowing greater flexibility for milk haulers, is a huge win for dairy farmers and other dairy-related stakeholders that are already operating in a very competitive market."
Under Act 34,PennDOT and the Agriculture department will work together to develop a permitting and fee schedule, similar to what is in place for dairy haulers on non-interstate roads. Doing so will ensure that the vehicles are being appropriately and accurately assessed for their share of wear and tear on highways.
Dairy is a key economic driver for Pennsylvania, representing the largest segment of the commonwealth's agriculture industry, contributing nearly $7 billion to the state's economy. The state is home to more than 7,300 dairy farm families who work to provide the state and nation with fresh, wholesome dairy products.
For more information about the provisions of the bill, visit www.legis.state.pa.us/cf/docs/billInofo.
For more information about the Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture and Transportation, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov and www.penndot.gov, respectively.