Michigan House Approves Trailer Brake Clarification

Publish Date: 
June 7, 2011

Huuki bill exempts slasher logging equipment from MDOT law

Amending Michigan’s transportation law to exempt table saw trailers connected to logging slasher rigs will help unify enforcement while protecting forest industry companies from unnecessary fines and lost work time.

The House today approved House Bill 4316, sponsored by Rep. Matt Huuki, to specify that nothing in the state’s current law would require a slasher table saw trailer used in logging operations to be equipped with brakes. The act addresses brake requirements based on vehicle weight.

“Technically, the enforcement is in accordance to the law because the saw trailer is within the MDOT weight requirements,” said Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine. “Part of the trouble seems to be that the enforcement depends on what part of the state the work is in and then how it is being interpreted.”

Last month Huuki was joined before the House Transportation Committee by Brian Nelson, a Cornell logger and president of the Michigan Association of Timbermen; Henry Schienebeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association; and Abe VanDuinen, of VanDuinen Forest Products in Lake City, who was recently ticketed for the trailer brake violation.

“In essence you have two trailers and one is one-tenth the weight of the rest of the rig,” Nelson told the committee. “If the law is a safety issue, the configuration of hitch, hydraulic hoses and safety chains connecting them won’t release the slasher trailer; if it’s a control issue, brakes on a 3,000 pound vehicle aren’t going to stop the rest of the tractor/trailer.”

State Rep. Matt Huuki, second from left, listens to Henry Schienebeck, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association executive director, give testimony on House Bill 4316 to the House Transportation Committee last month. Abe Van Duinen of VanDuinen Forest Products, second from right, and Brian Nelson, Michigan Association of Timbermen president, also attended the committee meeting.

Schienebeck added that requiring brakes on the smaller trailer may result in a bigger safety issue, as there isn’t a way to regulate how much brake pressure is applied to the main vehicle compared to the slasher trailer.

“An analogy I came up with for comparison is like towing an inner tube behind a boat or a toboggan behind a snowmobile because putting that much braking on the lighter trailer could cause it to start swinging side-to-side behind the rig,” he said. “Another statistic is that the number of traffic accidents increases with the amount of time on the road; this equipment is only moved once a month, or even once every two months.”

The transportation committee, which Huuki serves on, recommended the bill unanimously after some members recalled that last year a different special exemption was granted for transporting slasher logging rigs because of their specialized nature.
House Bill 4316 now goes before the Senate for consideration.

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