County FB delegates debate farm semi skill test requirements

By Kay Shipman

Illinois Farm Bureau will support farm semi driver skill tests based on actual situations truck drivers encounter after policy action at the IFB Annual Meeting in Chicago.

A spirited debate centered on proposed policy for the skills test requirement for applicants seeking a non-Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Class A license with a J50 or J51 restriction. The policy would not impact the written or driving tests for those driver’s licenses.

“I know the majority of people (delegates) don’t live in a commercial area. I no longer live in a rural area,” said Will County Farm Bureau delegate Lu Ann Matejcak, who added she has had a CDL for 10 years and drives 1,000 miles a week. Matejcak said she encounters five semis to every car on the highway. “There is no normal farm day once you leave the farm,” she said.

(Illinois Farm Bureau)

Knox County Farm Bureau President Grant Strom countered, “We’re not trying to make those testing for a non-CDL J50 and J51 (restrictions) do less; we’re just making it (the skills test) more fitting for what we face.” Most of farm semi drivers don’t have to “parallel park on the blind side. … I take this proposal as customizing to fit their needs and a chance to alter and improve it.”

Kirby Wagner, IFB assistant director of transportation and infrastructure, explained the U.S. Department of Transportation gives states requirements, including parallel parking, for CDL skills tests. Testing procedures for a J50 or J51 are identical to the CDL test, Wagner added.

State and Local Government Subcommittee Chairman Mike Zecher, Mercer County Farm Bureau president, told delegates the subcommittee’s focus was on the skills test, “not to say we want to follow different rules when we operate on the road.” In addition, revisions may be coming in federal policy and the change would allow IFB to work with officials, Zecher said.

Delegates approved with little debate changes to IFB policy on state and local finance ahead of a proposed state constitutional amendment to be determined by voters in the fall election. IFB policy now supports an overall tax structure for state and local governments in Illinois that includes a moderate flat rate state income tax, a moderate local real property tax, sales tax, motor fuel tax, cigarette tax, liquor tax and other special taxes.

Delegates also backed IFB policy to oppose creation of a progressive or graduated state income tax structure.

IFB policy supports analyses of any proposed change to the state tax structure in relation to the impact on the economy and state competitiveness.

Regarding supplemental food policy, IFB will support exemptions from federal government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) criteria A (stable food set) and B (stable food sales) to allow seasonal and on-farm businesses to accept SNAP benefits.

Delegates passed policy adding “sharing the road” with farm equipment to enhanced driver education programs. A new IFB rural road harvest safety video to educate drivers has been viewed 460 times since its release in fall 2019. Watch it below:

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