In Town of Delafield v. Centra Transport Kriewaldt (2020 WI 61), the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that federal transportation law does not preempt the town’s seasonal weight restriction on certain roads.
Delafield posted signs identifying a seasonal weight restriction prohibiting vehicles over six tons from driving on designated town roads. A Central Transport delivery truck over six tons was subsequently issued a citation for driving on one of the designated roads while making a delivery to a Delafield resident.
Federal law (U.S. Code Title 49 s. 31114(a) and Title 23 s. 658.19) requires towns provide “reasonable access” between the interstate and terminals. Central Transport argued that the federal transportation law preempts the town’s weight limit because it did not allow Central Transport reasonable access between the interstate and the place of delivery in the town. Furthermore, Central Transport said federal law requires town weight limits be based solely on safety considerations, and Delafield’s limits were based on protecting roads during spring weather.
The court found that Delafield did grant “reasonable access” because it provided adequate notice and a permit to exempt certain uses of the road from weight limits.
The court further found that Delafield’s weight limit did not need to be grounded solely in safety considerations. Federal law does provide an exemption for towns to impose additional safety-based weight limits for certain vehicles, but towns can impose limits for other reasons as long as they provide reasonable access.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Kelly (joined by Justice R. Bradley) agreed with the court’s outcome but criticized its failure to define a uniform standard of “reasonable access.” The concurring opinion would have instead ruled against Central Transport because its destination in Delafield was not a “terminal” to which the federal law at issue requires access.