Top Story, March 2017
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The poultry industry in Maryland is urging state legislators to support a bill that allow its trucks to haul more live birds in one trip from farm to processing plant.
In a hearing on Feb. 22 of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Mathias, and poultry company representatives said allowing heavier weights for live haul trucks would use less fuel, reduce accidents and traffic congestion and make Maryland competitive with neighboring states that allow heavier weights.
The bill, SB 917, would increase the gross vehicle weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 88,000 pounds for five-axle trucks carrying live poultry from a farm to a processing facility and only in the nine counties of the Eastern Shore.
The heavier-loaded trucks cannot use the Interstate highways and cannot travel with live poultry more than 150 miles, according to the bill.
“I’m here to tell you it has a lot of positive effects by allowing us to increase this weight, right now it’s 80,000 pounds, merely goes up to 88,000 and there’s a three-year sunset,” said Mathias in presenting the bill and asking for a favorable report from the committee.
Following the proposed law’s sunset in three years, live-haul trucks would have to operate with six axles to carry the heavier weight, said Frank Cruice, senior director of safety and security for Perdue Farms.
Current allowances for heavier loads for agricultural products is seasonal, during harvest seasons for crops and the “spring flush” on dairy farms when milk production regularly increases.
“Frankly, our businesses isn’t seasonal or cyclical like some are,” said Cathy Bassett, director of public relations for Allen Harim. “It’s year-round.”
Bassett said heavier live haul loads would translate into 728 fewer trips for its trucks each year and decrease fuel use by more than 1,450 gallons for Allen Harim, and other companies, like Perdue, would see even more savings.
“Obviously less trucks on the road means less greenhouse gases and air pollution,” she said. “It means less chances of accidents for our drivers and for those who travel the same road as our drives and it means less congestions on the roads.”
In 2014, Delaware approved legislation for hauling 92,700 on five axles year round, Bassett said.
Pennsyvania also has regulations for heavier weights and Virginia this year passed a bill to increase hauling weight for certain carriers, panel members told the committee.
Valerie Connelly, executive director of the Maryland Farm Bureau, said the bill’s passage would help farmers and the agriculture industry contribute to the state meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goal of 40 percent by 2030, which was set last year.
“We think we need to make fixes like this and others that will really allow us to get closer to reaching that goal,” Connelly said.