Farmers should pay share of road costs, say truckers

SASKATOON – Saskatchewan truckers think farmers should share the penalty if they get caught with overweight grain shipments.

And Warren Smith, the general manager of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, told producers at this year’s Crop Production Show that they don’t pay their fair share of truck registration fees.

Smith said in an interview the trucking association is asking the provincial government to change trucking laws so that shippers as well as truckers are held responsible when a truck is weighed and found over the legal limit.

This would be fair, because farmers know the weight of grain they are loading into a truck, he said.

“If you go to pick up X number of bushels from a farm, that farm producer knows what his grain weighs,” he said. “We don’t, and he knows how quickly his auger operates, so he has a responsibility to ask the guy what his legal weight is and load him accordingly, because we have no way of knowing what his commodity weighs.”

But Sinclair Harrison, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said it doesn’t matter who pays the fine, because the cost isn’t borne by the trucker.

“The producer has to pay the bill at the end of the day anyway,” he said in an interview. Truckers’ expenses are passed on eventually to producers, he said.

Registration costs unfair

Smith said he also wants truck registration fees reconsidered. He said commercial trucks cost five times as much to register as farm trucks, but “the utilization of a lot of that bulk equipment is not five times greater than a farmer will get. It’s greater than a farmer, but not five times greater.”

Harrison disagreed, saying “a commercial truck runs every day of the week, 52 weeks per year” if there is enough work for it, but on “an awful big farm with an awful small truck” it would be surprising to see more than a few weeks of heavy use in a year.

Smith countered that some producers abuse their rights by having trucks registered as farm trucks, but use them for essentially commercial trucking businesses.

He said commercial truck numbers in Saskatchewan have been stagnant, but there have been 3,000 new farm trucks registered since 1992.

Since there is about the same amount of grain to haul, the question becomes “who is really using the roads to haul,” and who should pay the price: truckers or farmers?

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