November 23, 2015

Crapo, Risch Join Bipartisan Effort to Increase Flexibility for Dairy Sector

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch today joined a bipartisan group of senators calling for increased weight limit flexibility in the transportation and delivery of milk as part of a final Surface Transportation Bill.  In a letter to Senate negotiators, Crapo and Risch request the final bill include a provision recognizing food safety and time-sensitive considerations for trucks hauling milk. 

Negotiators are working to merge individual House and Senate measures into one final Surface Transportation Bill.  The bill passed by the House includes language that would designate fluid milk products as a non-divisible load for the purposes of federal truck weight regulations.  A non-divisible load is defined as cargo that cannot be easily dismantled or divided due to the risk of ruining the value of the load.  Current law sets federal truck weight limits at 80,000 pounds but includes a provision that allows states the option to issue overweight permits for non-divisible loads.  Treating milk as non-divisible is important because truck weight limits currently vary between states and can create logistical challenges when milk is transported across state lines.  Once milk is loaded onto a truck, it is subject to stringent food safety regulations that require the container to be sealed and transported immediately.  Transportation disruptions resulting from varying truck weight limits could run afoul of these food safety guidelines and spoil the load, thereby destroying the value of the milk.

Full text of the letter is below:

November 23, 2015

The Honorable Jim Inhofe                                                   The Honorable Barbara Boxer

Chairman                                                                             Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Environment                                     Senate Committee on Environment

and Public Works                                                                and Public Works      

205 Russell Senate Office Building                                    112 Russell Senate Office Building 

Washington, D.C. 20510                                                     Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable John Thune                                                 Ranking Member Bill Nelson

Chairman                                                                             Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Commerce,                                       Senate Committee on Commerce,

Science, and Transportation                                                Science, and Transportation

511 Dirksen Senate Office Building                                   716 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510                                                     Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable Richard Shelby                                           The Honorable Sherrod Brown

Chairman                                                                             Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Banking,                                           Senate Committee on Banking,

Housing, and Urban Affairs                                                Housing, and Urban Affairs

304 Russell Senate Office Building                                    713 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510                                                     Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch                                            The Honorable Ron Wyden

Chairman                                                                             Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Finance                                             Senate Committee on Finance

104 Hart Senate Office Building                                         221 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510                                                     Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members,

Each day, more than 12,500 bulk milk trucks pick up milk at farms across the country and move it to over 2,000 processing plants. The transportation of bulk milk is an issue that affects businesses and consumers in every region and in every state.

We urge you to support language that was included in the House-passed version of H.R. 22, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, that would classify milk as a non-divisible load. This provision would allow states to issue special permits to bulk milk trucks, giving them more flexibility to ensure that milk is delivered in a timely manner and in compliance with federal and state food safety and security standards.

By classifying milk as a non-divisible load, this provision acknowledges that milk cannot be easily divided or dismantled between farms and processing plants. Milk is a perishable product that must be sealed for safety and transported quickly. When milk truckers pick up bulk milk, they must load the entire stock of bulk milk that a farm produced that day - not just the amount of milk that would keep the trucker in compliance with state truck weight limits. This is problematic because the amount of milk produced at a farm varies from day-to-day, based on weather, feed, and other factors. As a result, milk truckers perpetually risk being overweight. While milk truckers can break the seal and offload a portion of the milk to bring their truck weight into compliance, doing so increases transportation time and compromises the safety and security of the milk.

Current law already permits states to issue special permits for non-divisible loads, such as trees, boats, or any other products whose integrity would be compromised through division. Adding milk to the list of products that qualify as non-divisible loads would improve the safety and security of bulk milk. What's more, this provision would improve the stability of trucks loaded with fluid milk.

As the Conference Committee deliberates which provisions will be included in the final version of the DRIVE Act, we strongly urge your support the inclusion of this important milk classification.

Sincerely,

Sen. Chris Murphy

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Ron Johnson

Sen. Mike Crapo

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Sen. Kelly Ayotte

Sen. Jim Risch

Sen. Angus King

# # #