Local Government Options for Regulating Agricultural Vehicles Under Act 377

2013 Wisconsin Act 377 (see Implements of Husbandry – Wisconsin’s New Agricultural Vehicle Law for background) allows local towns, villages and cities to enact ordinances that will allow some local authority regarding Implements of Husbandry (IoH) and Agricultural Commercial Vehicles (Ag CMV).

Although the new maximum weight limits for IoHs and Ag CMVs (23,000 pounds per axle, 92,000 pounds total) cannot be reduced except in special circumstances, local governments may enact ordinances which regulate IoHs and Ag CMVs. Although the statute itself does not exactly define the various options, the Wisconsin Towns Association has provided an analysis of the options which may be helpful for local officials when trying to determine the best way to respond to Act 377.

Local Authority: Basically, there are six options ranging from doing nothing at all, to fully opting in to regulate under the new law. These are labelled Option A – F. Local governments should review these options and consider action at a Board meeting prior to the January 15, 2015 deadline for enacting a municipal ordinance on this topic.

  • Option A – posting roads limiting weights below the new limits. Keep in mind this has always been an option, but there must be a clear basis for doing so which can be backed up by engineering evidence that the structural integrity of the road, bridge or culvert cannot handle the weight. For example, if a bridge has been inspected and given a maximum weight below what Act 377 allows, this can be posted. Allows operators to apply for a permit to exceed the new maximums.
  • Option B – Total Opt Out: The local authority must enact an ordinance opting out. This would allow any IoHs or Ag CMVs to operate on any local road without regard to weight limits.
  • Option C – Partial Opt Out 1: Requires an ordinance. The ordinance would set defined weight limits, which may exceed the Act 377 maximums. Allows operators to apply for a permit to exceed the new maximums.
  • Option D – Partial Opt Out 2: Requires an ordinance, which would designate certain roads for over-weight operation, up to maximums set by the ordinance. Allows operators to apply for a permit to exceed the new maximums.
  • Option E – Opt In: Requires an ordinance. Requires all IoHs and Ag CMVs to comply with all regulations of Act 377, but allows operators to apply for a permit for exceeding the new maximums.
  • Option F – Do Nothing: Local government takes no action. Act 377 weight limits apply. Allows operators to apply for a permit to exceed the new maximums.

No Fee Permits: Most of the options available to local governments allow operators to apply for a permit to exceed the new weight limits, and no fee may be required for such permits. Permit application forms are available from the Department of Motor Vehicles at the following website: http://www.dot.state.wi.us/business/ag/index.htm.

Short Timelines: Local governments must approve or deny a permit application within three weeks, or the application is temporarily deemed approved. Then the local government has three more weeks, or a total of six weeks, or the permit is deemed approved for the year.

Denial: If the local government denies a permit, it must send the applicant a written denial with a reasonable, structurally based explanation that relates to the preservation of the roadway. Possible reasons might be a bad Pacer rating, obvious saturation of the base grade (standing water), obvious alligator or stress cracks caused by heavy vehicles, bridge ratings.

Category B: If an application is for a Category B IoH (see Implements of Husbandry – Wisconsin’s New Agricultural Vehicle Law), the local government must either approve the permit, or give the operator an approved alternate route.

Best Practices: It may be a good idea to designate someone to respond to applications in order to meet the short timelines without the need for a board meeting. If your municipality has agricultural operations which utilize IoHs or Ag CMVs, it may be a good idea for that designated person to visit the operators to discuss the new law and attempt to work out a reasonable agreement. For example, maybe a one way route for a particular operation would work to reduce stress on the roads.

The specific definitions for IoHs and Ag CMVs can be found in the statutes at §§ 340.01(24)(a) and 340.01 (1o), and at the following Department of Transportation website: http://www.dot.state.wi.us/business/ag/definition.htm.

Further information about these options and model ordinances can be found at the Towns Association website: http://www.wisctowns.com. (Scroll down to find the heading “Sample Ordinance & Information on New Implements of Husbandry (IOH) Law”). Contact your municipal attorney for assistance in enacting such an ordinance.

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