House Bill 4224 proposes an amendment to the Michigan Vehicle Code pertaining to the proper towing of log slashers and log saw trailers. Section 719 of the Michigan Vehicle Code covers various issues with tractor-trailer towing length and height regulations. This bill would make it easier, and legal to tow both a log slasher and a log saw simultaneously on one vehicle. Currently, a truck cannot tow two trailers unless both trailers use a fifth wheel connecting assembly, a device composed of two metal plates that allows for rotational and vertical movement between the truck and the trailer (http://www.tpub.com/eqopbas/72.htm). The units would still be required to be no longer than 28 ½ feet individually and 58 feet total, and would have to be connected by a coupling device certified by the Motor Carrier Safety Act. Essentially this law would provide for the easier transportation of a slasher and a saw for those involved in the forestry and landscaping industry.. Originally sponsored by Kate Ebli, second term Democrat from Monroe, she has been joined by Representatives Steve Lindberg (D, Marquette), Judy Nerat (D, Menominee), Joel Sheltrown (D, Rosscommon/Ogemaw), Andy Neumann (D, Alpena), Jeff Mayes (D, Bay), Wayne Schmidt (R, Grand Traverse), Gary McDowell (D, Cheboygan), Darwin Booher (D, Osceola), Geoff Hansen (R, Newaygo), Fred Durhal (D, Wayne) and Marie Donigan (D, Oakland). There are a few things to note in the co-sponsors of the bill. First, there are only 2 Republicans, Hansen and Schmidt; and everyone except Donigan and Durhal are from rural districts. It is an asset to have a few co-sponsors from across the aisle, and it is also an asset to have two representatives from urban and suburban constituencies to perhaps put in a good word to the representatives of similar districts.
The chance that this bill passes is not very great. It is still very early in the legislative game, having been sent to committee and awaiting hearing. It seems as though many may find fault in the regulation that the trailers will not need to be connected by the standard fifth wheel connecting assembly. Representatives from suburban districts may unfairly envision a future in which log slashers and log saws are flailing wildly through the streets, not properly secured to their truck and threatening the lives of their children playing on the sidewalk. Though that example may be a bit of a hyperbole, the safety considerations of this bill will have to be considered and will most definitely be scrutinized by members of the committee and the entire legislature, should the bill make it out of committee. If the Transportation Committee does meet a consensus that a fifth wheel assembly should be required, they can always propose an amendment and give the bill a higher likelihood of passing.
In general, this bill does not seem like it has a good chance of passing. Many may ask themselves if this really should be an issue worth taking up in the legislature at this juncture, and it may very well not be. It also will need to be explained why exactly the Michigan Vehicle Code needs amending. Supporters will have to explain who this bill helps and how it helps substantially helps them in comparison to the current regulations. With rural districts holding a minority of seats in the House, but the majority of the cosponsors of the bill, there will have to be a lot of lobbying to convince their colleagues that this issue is worth taking up and is necessary to pass.