HARRISBURG, Pa. — Travel across Pennsylvania roadways and you will see a wave of trucks carrying grain, livestock, produce and other agricultural products.
But for those driving the trucks, the drive is harder than it looks as bridges close without notice, permit restrictions apply and the laws for the drivers cause havoc.
A transportation and agriculture forum sponsored by the PennAg Industries Association and the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition was held Jan. 10 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The forum featured farmers, transportation and public policy leaders.
One issue brought to light by farmers is the permitting situation in Pennsylvania.
In Ohio, farmers can pay $100 a year for a feed and grain permit. In New York and Delaware, farmers said there are a lot of exemptions that they fall under.
In Pennsylvania, that is not the case. Farmers need to obtain weight permits.
The problem, farmers explained during the forum, is that they have to obtain permits from each individual state if they travel through more than one state with a load.
Pennsylvania transportation secretary Barry Schoch said that Pennsylvania is attempting to work with neighboring states and create a permitting program where only one permit would need to be purchased.
What the program would mean is that one permit would be purchased and it would include the route and enable the truck and trailer to travel through every state necessary without applying for individual permits.
Schoch said that if northeast states can do it, then the whole country could be part of the program.
One clarification that was made for some drivers in attendance was the requirement for those driving semi-trucks to have a medical examination.
Schoch clarified that there are certain requirements for those holding a commercial drivers license such as a medical examination that has to be obeyed and even by those behind the wheel of a semi-truck that don’t have a commercial drivers license.
He explained that it is a federal law for drivers behind the wheel of a semi-truck to have a medical examination and the state of Pennsylvania must adhere to the law as well, or risk the loss of federal transportation funding.
Another concern issued by farmers in attendance was bridge conditions in Pennsylvania.
Schoch said there are more than 5,000 bridges listed as deficient and that doesn’t include local bridges.
Farmers said they have noticed an increase in the number of bridges either being shut off to truck traffic or the weight limits being lowered, which makes getting equipment to farms difficult or even harder getting products to the market.
Schoch told the group that he is hopeful that Gov. Tom Corbett will support legislation in 2013 to repair bridges so that farmers can keep operating.
Farmers did tell Schoch that a major step forward was made in 2012 when legislation was passed in Pennsylvania that allows custom operators (farmer owned) to move equipment by truck within a 50-mile radius.
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