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Mini-truck bill passes both Minnesota houses; differences to be reconciled

Dennis and Bruce Bolton, from left, have prompted the likely passage of a bill that would allow mini-trucks to drive on highways. Dennis maintains the trucks, which can travel up to 70 mph and get 40 mpg, are safer than motorcycles and are environmentally better for the economy since they're so fuel efficient. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

A bill authored by State Representative Brita Sailer (DFL-Park Rapids) to allow mini-trucks on local streets, county roads and highways passed the Minnesota House this week with wide bi-partisan support.

The bill, sponsored at the behest of Hubbard County mini truck owners Dennis and Bruce Bolton, would authorize counties and other local units of government to issue permits to individuals who use the vehicles on roads under county jurisdiction.

"I'm pleased my colleagues in the Minnesota House recognized the need to give some flexibility to local governments on this issue," said Representative Sailer. "If it is passed this session, the legislation would give farmers and small business owners additional transportation options to run their operations, and individuals a fuel-efficient and economical alternative to standard cars and trucks."

Mini-trucks are sold as off-road vehicles for farms and construction sites and are far smaller than conventional small trucks sold for on-the-road use. Sailer's legislation would allow counties and other political subdivisions to determine the use of the vehicles within the local jurisdictions. 11 states other states, including North Dakota, now allow mini trucks on specific portions of public roads. However, these are wide disparities in the way states allow the vehicles to be used and

on what roads they may be driven.

"So many states have recognized the value of alternative transportation options, including the use of mini-trucks on our roadways," said Sailer. "I'm hopeful it will push the federal government to adopt some uniform standards for the vehicles that don't vary from state to state or even county to county."

Similar legislation has passed the Senate; Sailer expects the minor differences will be resolved in time to send a bill to the Governor.

"While this bill doesn't have all of the provisions we started with, it's still a good first step," said Sailer. "I think we can keep the momentum going and get the bill passed this year."