House Bill would exempt smaller trucks from lengthy inspections, expensive lettering
By Amy Lane
REGION – Throughout Michigan, many businesses run on small commercial vehicles and pickup trucks.
And the owners of those vehicles, from farmers to service providers to manufacturers, had fallen under a state requirement for federal vehicle registration that industry representatives say is a burden and expensive.
But that's changing under legislation sponsored by northern Michigan's Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin.
House Bill 5228 was approved unanimously by the House and Senate in June. Now, smaller commercial vehicles and trucks no longer must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and subjected to annual spot-check inspections, proper display of DOT numbers, and maintenance of operator log books and records.
"Regulatory aspects, like inspections that some said could stretch for several hours, meant inefficiency and loss of valuable time to businesses," MacMaster said. "We know that House Bill 5528 will affect thousands and thousands of vehicles, and the businesses that use them."
The legislation exempts commercial motor vehicles with gross weight ratings of less than 26,001 pounds – alone or combined with a trailer – from the federal regulations. Vehicles must operate only within Michigan and would still be subject to various driver, operational and safety requirements, MacMaster said.
The agriculture industry is among those that will benefit from the change, said Matt Smego, legislative counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau.
"Whenever a farmer wanted to hook a livestock trailer on the back of their pickup truck and use it for a business purpose, it met the definition of a commercial motor vehicle and fell under the associated regulations," he said.
Vehicles used similarly for personal purposes did not.
"It became very confusing as to when am I regulated and when am I not," Smego said. "From a burden standpoint there were requirements like needing to register and renew with the DOT and spending possibly a few hundred dollars per vehicle for DOT lettering."
Federal law allows states to make such exemptions, and farmers in Michigan have been at a disadvantage by having to meet the requirements while those in neighboring states like Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, did not, Smego said.
Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association executive director Amy Frankmann agreed.
"It didn't make sense that vehicles taking materials and equipment from one job to the next had to be compliant the same way as semi trucks do," she said.
Charlie Owens, director of the National Federation of Independent Business – Michigan, said the regulation affected a broad swath of small businesses.
"The annoyance factor is very high, because typically people find out about this when they're being ticketed," he said.
The Michigan State Police is neutral on the legislation and is satisfied that it does not conflict with any federal motor carrier safety regulations, said Sgt. Dwayne Gill, legislative liaison for the organization.
For more information on House Bill 5228, visit Legislature.mi.gov/.