GLTPA's Director's Notes



Road use issues are the gift that keeps on giving and try as we may, there is no indication as to when a lasting solution will be developed and placed in service.  In the meantime, road restrictions, although well-intended as a method of preserving roads, are placing restrictions on freedom of movement, and adding significant cost to trucking operations and shipment of products.

Based on incoming calls to GLTPA, weight restrictions are not prone to one geographic area indicating the broadness of the problem at hand.  The problem is an ongoing lack of effort to adequately fund infrastructure investment to keep the economy and products moving without hindrances like weight limited roads.  Rarely is there a forestry meeting at which the topic of weight restrictions is not mentioned or discussed.  Gross vehicle weight limits, axle weight limits, bridge weight limits, class “B” restrictions, and no trucks allowed are tools that ultimately kick the funding can down the road.

Most people know and understand the problem and as unfortunate as it is, no one seemingly wants to take responsibility for the current state of infrastructure funding.  Legislatures, whether congressional or state, think transportation departments should be better at spending money.  Maybe a good look in the mirror is in order.  By definition, ALL government spending is third party spending. Third party spending is using money that wasn’t earned whereby the return on investment is not always the highest priority like it is on a personal level. Tax money comes to the coffers and gets distributed in part for transportation and other so-called “pet projects” not related to transportation.  When third-party spending is in play, the best to be expected is that checks and balances are in place to ensure some degree of accountability.  Local government closest to the people has proven to be the most accountable.  

There are those who think they should not have to pay for roads because they don’t own a vehicle.  Fact is, they are more dependent on public transportation for products, travel, and emergency services than those who own vehicles.  The mere fact that they want, and demand products and services make them as liable for infrastructure costs as any other road user.  Have you ever seen a transportation budget where subsidies for public transportation are not included?  Evidently those systems don’t generate enough income to support themselves so why are the charges to ride not high enough to cover the cost?  The point here is that no matter how it’s sliced, everyone is dependent on a transportation system in need of an immediate long-term fix to prevent further erosion and restricted travel.  Poor roads are an economic impediment to everyone whether travel is restricted or repairing a vehicle damaged by potholes.

Can a legislature find a formula to fix the problem?  Pretty sure they can but they won’t.  No matter what solution it develops, it will undoubtedly favor one group versus another whereby they could find themselves out of a job at election time.  How about the transportation agencies, can they find a solution?  Pretty sure they can but it’s highly unlikely that a legislature would approve it. It’s blatantly obvious that passing the buck, kicking the can, and rolling the ball to another time or group’s court is the most well used diversion in town.  If it weren’t the problem would be fixed, wouldn’t it?

What is the long-term fix and who will implement the plan if developed?  Your guess is as good as mine and it could be up to us to start the conversation at the local level.  We’re smart and I’m sure we can figure it out.  In the meantime, the best thing that can be done is to remove restrictions on commerce so it can remain economically viable in the global market.  Does it make sense to restrict an industry that assisted in adding an additional eighteen years of life to roads twenty years or more past their anticipated life expectancy?  Unlike Michigan where axle weight has always been the rule for transporting all products, the forest industry in Wisconsin reduced its axle weight substantially in 2005 and apparently it must be working.   It comes back to the question as to why it is that roads twenty years past their life haven’t been rebuilt?  Industry pays more taxes than ever in its history, yet reconstruction/maintenance continues to lag further behind every year.  In place of being rewarded for helping to conserve these roads, restrictions have multiplied costing an industry which reduced its footprint on roads, infinitely more money in time and dollars to comply with permits and bonding, which again, is credited to the fact that there is no priority to fully fund future transportation needs.

Restrictions and regulations do have their place and spring thaw is one example where restrictions are warranted.  In addition, there is the occasional “bad actor” and those situations should be handled by enforcement and should not be a determining factor in creating rules which impact everyone.  Ultimately the infrastructure funding currently in place is a monumental failure and needs to be corrected.  Placing additional requirements and restrictions on businesses providing a tax base might provide a temporary solution, but at the same time it creates inefficiency and deters economic competitiveness.  Let’s not let procrastination stand in the way of progress.  Who knows, one well thought out conversation between industry and local government could lead to a positive change for all.  

Until next month,




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The Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA)

Provides proven leadership in the Lake States Forest products industry for over 70 years. GLTPA is a non-profit organization proud to represent members in Michigan and Wisconsin and is committed to leading Forest Products Industry in sustainable forest management.

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