KEWEENAW PENINSULA — A recent warm in local weather up may cause motorists to notice an increase of trucking traffic on Upper Peninsula roadways. Spring weight restrictions, mean lighter loads for truckers causing many to make more trips to and from their destinations.
“Weight Restrictions went on last Thursday at 8:00 am,” said Kevin Harju, an engineer with the Houghton County Road Commission. “They are currently on and being enforced, we do have weigh-masters out on the roads patrolling.”
“They’re out, they’re checking, yeah,” said Jesse Pietro, a log truck driver from Ishpeming. “They’ve actually been pretty good. They know what we’re doing and what were trying to do and when we leave here we try to put on a nice legal load and go from here you know. We do our best, I’ll put it that way.”
On a Sunday drive while gathering some stock footage, I stopped to film a logging site. Much to my surprise there were people working over the weekend.
“I’m from Iron River and this is our job up here,” said Roger Carne, a log truck driver. “Every day we come up here, same as Jesse, we come up and try to do a long load and a short load. It’s getting warmer every day so it’s harder and harder to do our job.”
Because the logging trail is beginning to become soft and muddy, these guys are trying to get their payload out of the deep forest, but with the thawing soil, the clock is ticking.
“The frost goes down six plus feet into the ground,” Harju said. “As it thaws, it thaws from the top down, so you have a real super saturated material sitting on top of an ice block essentially so the pavement doesn’t have the strength to hold up to the heavy loads, so that’s why we reduce the loads by 35%.”
“We’re worried about our woods road breaking up so were trying to jump some wood out so we can get to it before the road goes bad,” said Pietro. “That’s the main reason I guess we’re here on a Sunday.”
“We do occasionally have some gravel roads that will almost become impassible,” said Harju. “Then we would encourage whoever is working that area not to be driving on them so we can get the local residents in and out.”
Many depend on the extra efforts of folks like Roger an Jesse, as logging plays such a large economic role in the UP.
“To me logging is a really big industry up here. From paper mills to saw mills to all of the trucking and logging itself. It employs a lot of people there’s a big spin off between the fuel you buy, the parts you buy, maintenance and all that. It really covers a lot of ground.”