Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill designed to exempt milk truck haulers from weather-related travel bans. He cited safety concerns as his primary reason.
“After careful consideration, I must veto this legislation due to very serious public safety concerns,” Wolf wrote in the veto.
The bill would exempt milk truck haulers from winter weather bans. Five bans of commercial vehicles on state highways occurred over the beginning of 2019.
Sen. Judy Ward, who proposed a similar bill in the Senate, expressed disappointment over Gov. Wolf’s decision.
“At a time when our dairy industry is already facing serious challenges, it is disappointing that Gov. Wolf has made a choice that makes it even harder on the industry to get their products to market,” Ward said in a press release.
Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair) joined her.
“Cows don’t stop producing milk when it snows,” he said in a press release. “By prohibiting the dairy industry from transporting its products, the governor is essentially telling farmers to pour profits down the drain,” Gregory said. “We should be able to trust professional haulers to evaluate the conditions and transport this perishable product who possible.”
Ward agreed that haulers should have the choice to make their runs.
“First of all, these milk haulers should have the good judgment to know when is the best time to begin their runs,” she told The Daily News. “They don’t want an accident with their equipment. Secondly, the milk haulers are professional drivers who are accustomed to getting into farms on narrow or challenging roads. They have chains for the wheels on their trucks which will make it even more safe. … Since there won’t be any other vehicles on the highways, it will be safe for the milk haulers to make their pickups.”
Gov. Wolf questioned such an argument in his veto.
“A declaration of disaster emergency carries the gravest considerations insofar as the traveling public is concerned,” he said. He added, “Typically, the bans are short in duration; however, they may be extended due to vehicle accidents or stranded motorists due to hazardous conditions on the highways. For example, on November 15, 2018, a severe winter weather event occurred in this Commonwealth. Interstates 83, 81, 80 and 78 were closed for up to 15 hours while commercial vehicles were removed from the snow and ice that had built up around the stopped vehicles. Commercial vehicle bans were then initiated for the next five storms spanning from January to March 2019. With the bans in place, there were no significant closures on the interstate highways in this Commonwealth.”
Erin Waters-Trasatt, press secretary for PennDOT, also added that only interstates and major routes are restricted during weather emergencies.
“Other roadways are available for travel, and speeds are typically lower on those roadways and they have more access points to keep traffic moving,” she told The Daily News.
Ward considered other roadways potentially more dangerous.
“Putting (haulers) on back roads that aren’t plowed or treated will make it more dangerous,” she said.
Now that the bill has been vetoed, Ward said lawmakers are considering their options.
“I had the same bill (Senate Bill 588) that we passed in the Senate,” she said. “That bill sits in the House (of Representatives). We have the summer to evaluate what direction we want to take with this issue and if there is any compromise to be made.”
The Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives will reconvene in September.
Jesse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.