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Farming weight limits mulled in county, townships
MONROE - Updated weight limits for farm equipment on Wisconsin roadways have tasked local governments with seeking out the best way to adapt to the new law.

The Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 377 in April clarifying the definitions of implements of husbandry and creating a definition for agricultural commercial motor vehicles, which are modified semi-trucks used for agriculture purposes. The act increased the maximum gross weight for vehicles to 92,000 pounds, up from 80,000 pounds. The new weight limit must be in tandem with a single-axle weight limit that rose from 20,000 to 23,000 pounds. This means a vehicle cannot exceed a weight-to-axle ratio of 23,000 pounds per axle, regardless of how many axles are on the vehicle.

Implements of husbandry are set up into three categories by the new definitions of the law: Category A, which includes tractors; Category B, which includes self-propelled implements of husbandry, such as harvesters or chemical fertilizer equipment (Category B vehicles have no axle-weight limit); and Category C, which includes any type of equipment that is attached as a trailer to a self-propelled implement of husbandry, such as a farm wagon, farm trailer or manure trailer. Implements of husbandry that run on rubber tracks rather than wheels are excluded from the weight limits.

Permits are required if a vehicle will exceed the weight limit. Local governments will have to decide by Jan. 15, 2015 how to regulate their respective and shared roads.

Cheryl Skjolaas, a University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture safety specialist, met with Monroe residents at the Green County Justice Center Wednesday to discuss how local governments should set weight limits based off the new law. Skjolass said Green County could pass a sweeping ordinance for county roads that would set a permanent weight limit, and any vehicle exceeding that limit would have to apply for a permit. Townships may have to set more specific sets of ordinances for township roads, and especially the roads townships share. She said farmers have to be very aware of what roads they will be driving on, either to transfer equipment, feed, manure or to perform other farming duties.

Skjolass said incidental travel, half a mile or less, will not require a permit if the vehicle exceeds the 92,000-pound and 23,000-pound weight limits or any limit set by the county and townships.

Skjolass outlined six different options for the county and townships to adopt in the face of this new law. The first option is posting weight limits on every road; the second is doing away with weight limits on any roads in the jurisdiction, aside from bridges; the third would allow for weight limits above the 92,000-, 23,000-pound limits on all roads; the fourth designates certain routes for overweight vehicles on roads that can take the wear and tear; the fifth would require all vehicles, including those in Category B, to follow the 92,000-, 23,000-pound weight limits; and the sixth would be a strict adherence to Act 377 with no special adjustments to the 92,000-, 23,000-pound weight limit.

Jeff Wunschel, commissioner of the Green County Highway Department, said he thinks the fifth option would be the best for the county as a whole and township roads. He said he will be discussing the fifth option at the next highway department meeting and hopes that the county will go by his recommendation. Wunschel said the fifth option is the best for the county because it is more inclusive: The option includes Category B vehicles in the weight limits and would allow for an easier permitting process since there is one uniform weight limit.

"I don't think I'm being unrealistic in saying that a sweeping agreement could be done across the board for the county and the towns," he said.

Any vehicle over the weight limit without a permit could face a fine that starts at 5 cents per pound up to 1,000 pounds and increases to 10 cents per pound over the first 1,000 pounds.