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Swift County will seek legislative clarification of mini truck law

Mini trucks are seen on the lot at Swenson Motor Company in Benson. (Tribune file photo)

BENSON -- What started out as a seemingly simple request to allow mini trucks to travel on Swift County roads could end up back in the lap of state legislators.

After struggling with the issue for about a month, the Swift County Board of Commissioners agreed that the best solution may be to seek changes in the mini truck legislation that went into effect in August in Minnesota.

"I don't think the statute was really thought through well enough when it was passed," said Swift County Attorney Robin Finke in an interview Wednesday.

Following state law, Benson car dealer Kentt Habben asked the Swift County Board this fall to approve an ordinance and issue permits so that the fuel-efficient, Japanese-made mini trucks he sells could be driven on county roads.

Habben, managing partner at Swenson Motor Company, had already gained the support of the Benson City Council to issue permits to drive the vehicles on city streets.

Finke said that each township would also have to pass an ordinance and issue permits to allow the fully enclosed mini trucks to be driven.

Finke said someone could spend considerable time going to all the different entities to purchase the annual permits to drive on various roads and streets in a county.

He said it would be easier if a county-wide permit could be issued.

Other Minnesota counties, and owners of mini trucks, are also asking for clarification of the state law.

Some counties have suggested that the state, rather than local jurisdictions, should be issuing permits for mini trucks to be driven on roads.

While saying he was not very familiar with the new law, Rep. Al Juhnke said it makes sense to have local jurisdictions -- that have authority over their roads -- pass appropriate ordinances.

"I think it's probably proper that it's a local ordinance," said Juhnke, DFL-Willmar.

Although the vehicles do have a number of basic safety features, Juhnke said mini trucks should be on roads where other slow-moving vehicles travel, and that's a decision that should lie with local governments.

"You can imagine a collision with a Ford Excursion with one of these things and who would be the winner," he said.

Besides trying to persuade legislators to review the law, the Swift County Board agreed at a meeting Tuesday to hold a public hearing for Dec. 1 on a county ordinance to allow mini trucks to travel on county roads.

The county will also talk to townships about their desire for passing local ordinances for permitting mini trucks on township roads.