Mini-trucks get thumbs down from Duluth council
DULUTH A divided City Council said no Monday night to making mini-trucks street-legal in Duluth. So what exactly is a mini-truck? It's a light, four-wheeled vehicle powered by an electric motor or a small engine. Developed in Japan, they typicall...
A divided City Council said no Monday night to making mini-trucks street-legal in Duluth.
So what exactly is a mini-truck?
It's a light, four-wheeled vehicle powered by an electric motor or a small engine. Developed in Japan, they typically look like a downsized van or pickup truck.
In an effort to educate councilors about the vehicles, Ben Fisher-Merritt of Wrenshall hauled his own mini-truck to city hall Monday by trailer. He praised the vehicle, describing it as a valuable and versatile tool he uses daily on his grass-fed beef farm in Wrenshall. Fisher-Merritt said the lightweight vehicle doesn't get stuck in the field and doesn't compact the soil like a traditional truck would, plus it gets 48 miles per gallon of fuel.
Used mini-trucks typically range in price from about $2,500 to $10,000, according to Fisher-Merritt, with new vehicles beginning at about $11,000.
His 1996 model has a payload capacity of 1,200 pounds and a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds. Its top speed is supposed to be 65 mph, but Fisher-Merritt said he has never pushed his beyond 55.
Fisher-Merritt was successful in convincing Carlton County to permit mini-trucks on its roads earlier this year, but he could not repeat the feat in Duluth.
That's due in large part to concerns raised by Duluth Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken, who called the vehicles "real cute" but went on to say that the department was uncertain about wanting to see mini-trucks proliferate on city streets.
He said they have not been subjected to federal crash tests, and expressed concern that occupants of mini-trucks could be prone to serious injury in the event of a crash.
Fisher-Meritt said his only other vehicle is a motorcycle and contended a mini-truck was likely safer.
Councilor Sharla Gardner, who introduced an ordinance that would have allowed mini-trucks, said 12 states have legalized the vehicles, with Arizona likely next in line.
"I see this as part of Duluth wanting to be at the vanguard as a green city. It's just one small step, but it goes to how we want to present ourselves to the rest of the state and the nation," Gardner said.
She said the vehicles create less pollution and do less damage to roads than oversized SUVs and trucks.
But Councilor Jay Fosle questioned whether it was consistent for the council to allow mini-trucks on city streets but not ATVs. He characterized mini-trucks as really nothing more than "a glorified ATV."
Councilor Kerry Gauthier said he couldn't support allowing vehicles on city streets unless he knew them to be safe.
"I'm not sure it (the mini-truck) meets muster if it hasn't been tested in the U.S," he said.
The ordinance failed 5-4, with Fosle, Todd Fedora, Patrick Boyle, Gauthier and Jim Stauber voting in the majority.
Supporting the failed ordinance were Gardner, Tony Cuneo, Jeff Anderson and Dan Hartman.
At least three other Minnesota cities already have voted to allow mini-trucks on city streets: Benson, Circle Pines and Cottonwood, according to Jeannette Bach, research manager for the League of Minnesota Cities. But the largest of those communities is Circle Pines, with a population of about 5,200.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.