MN budget battle puts truck drivers at risk
Jul 13, 2011 11:22 AM, By Charles E Wilson
When Minnesota's tax-and-spend governor couldn't get his way with the state legislature, he shut down virtually the entire state government. That included shuttering 62 rest stops along Interstate Highways running through the state.
It's more than an inconvenience for truck drivers operating through the state. It's a safety hazard, because truck drivers say they have to keep driving even when fatigued. They say state officials are playing Russian roulette with highway safety.
Truck drivers report that many truck stops in Minnesota and the surrounding states are now packed to capacity. Some drivers say they have had no choice but to park on the side of the road near some of the shuttered rest stops and in other unsafe locations.
Rest stops should be considered an essential service, according to John Hausladan, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association. Drivers rely on rest stops as a safe place to sleep and do vehicle repairs. MTA has asked a special court master to declare rest areas a critical service and to reopen them while negotiations continue on a new state budget.
The state government shut-down was ordered on July 1 by Democrat Governor Mark Dayton when he and the state legislature were unable to reach agreement on how to close a $5 billion budget shortfall. Since then, most state services—including commercial driver license renewals—have been halted. Thousands of state employees have been laid off, millions in state revenues may have been lost, and numerous state construction projects were halted.
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