October 26, 2016

Loggers and Truckers Line Duluth Roads in Protest

By KBJR News 1

  • Click to enlarge

    U.S. Congressman Chip Cravaack joins truckers and loggers during a truck convoy protest on September 27, 2012. Cravaack helped pass a bill that would have changed the law the industry is protesting. The senate threw out his bill in committee.

2 photos

September 27, 2012 Updated Oct 14, 2013 at 1:00 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- 66 logging trucks lined up along Highway 61 Thursday morning before running a convey through downtown Duluth. The truckers held the parade to protest a Federal law banning them from federal interstates.

The drivers say it would just be common sense to allow these heavy trucks to travel on I-35.

Those serving the logging industry feel interstate travel would be safer than travelling through communities' downtowns and school zones, plus it would save money with gas prices at nearly four dollars a gallon.

"It makes no sense at all, when it takes you ten minutes to go down to the free way."

Mixed in with his retirement, Bob Grivette happily hauls timber from the forests near Ely to Duluth. But on a brisk Thursday fall morning on Highway 61, his attitude is changed while he sits in his 18-wheeler.

"The stoplights and the people coming out of their angle parking, it's very unsafe," said Grivette, who works out of Ely, MN.

Safety concerns for pedestrians and truckers alike are part of the reason more than 50 timber trucks lined the shoulder of Highway 61 and in a convey departed for Duluth in protest of the US Senate.

"The loggers are here to make a statement. They care about safety. They want to make sure their trucks can get down through Duluth in a safe manner," said United States Congressman Chip Cravaack.

Congressman Cravaack feels a provision he authored in the 2012 transportation bill, allowing more weight on the federal interstate system in Minnesota, would make Duluth safer, by allowing trucks to bypass the downtown area.

While opponents of the provision say more research needs to be done before a concrete plan is reached, the logging industry says the time is now for change.

"Does it make sense that logging trucks should be driving on cobble stone roads instead of the interstate? Does the federal government think it's safer for those trucks to drive through school zones, hospital zones, residential neighborhoods, retail districts instead of the interstate?" said Scott Dane with the Associated Contract of Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota.

But, if it makes sense or not, loggers, like Grivette, carrying more than 80,000 pounds will still have to bypass I-35 for downtown, until Minnesota is added to the list of those states allowed carrying a heavier load and federal roads.

Vermont and Maine are currently participating in a "heavy truck" pilot program that allows semi trailers with 100,000 pounds of weight on six axels to take the interstate.

Congressman Cravaack says he hopes lawmakers will see the benefits of taking these big rigs off residential streets and allow them on to Federal roadways.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness says he supports allowing these big trucks to use the interstate so as to get them off their dangerous routes through cities.

That's a sentiment that's echoed by St. Louis County leaders and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Zach Vavricka

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