Maine governor tries to help logging truckers

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Maine Gov. John Baldacci last week signed a civil emergency declaration to help independent logging truck operators hurt by sky-high diesel fuel prices. The state will expedite weekly fuel tax reimbursements for logging truck operators and other off-road diesel users while working with gas station operators to find a way to avoid charging the tax at the pump, the Associated Press reported.

“Diesel prices in Maine are at all-time highs, and it is having a devastating impact on our economy, and particularly on the forest products industry,” Baldacci told the AP. Logging industry representatives said as many as 20 percent of the independent logging truck operators could go out of business if something is not done, said David Farmer, the governor’s spokesman.

The civil emergency declaration allows the state to mobilize its efforts and seek help from President Bush, but the state’s first action targets Maine’s 28.8 cent diesel fuel tax, Farmer told the AP. Although operators of logging trucks and diesel-powered machinery are exempt from the tax, they have to pay it at the pump and then seek a reimbursement from the state. Farmer told the news agency the state will expedite those reimbursements and encourage operators to file weekly reimbursement requests.

Baldacci also ordered the state Department of Transportation to pinpoint additional roads that can tolerate weights up to 105,000 pounds for Maine-registered logging trucks, allowing truckers to take direct routes and reduce mileage. Also, Baldacci asked Bush to waive the federal weight limit of 80,000 pounds on Interstates 95 and 395 north of Augusta.