Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Farm Equipment Law Passes State Senate, by Danielle Cook

The “Implements of Husbandry” bill passed Senate approval last month. The bill permits Wisconsin farmers to operate their heavy machinery on roads legally, while ensuring public safety and making sure that roads and bridges are not damaged.

Farm machinery weight limits will be increased by 15%, allowing for the transport of more implements on public roads. Maximum single axle weight will increase from 20,000 to 23,000 lbs, and maximum gross vehicle weight will increase from 80,000 to 92,000 lbs.

Free permits will also be offered for machinery exceeding the larger limits. Denial for transportation must come in the form of scientific reasoning. However, permit officials will be able to designate a specific route for the machinery transportation.

“We believe it is imperative that farmers have the ability to operate their equipment on our roadways legally and safely without fear of law enforcement action. This bill gives us that,” explained Karen Gefvert, Governmental Relations director for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

Written by Senator Jerry Petrowski and Representative Keith Ripp, of Marathon and Lodi, Wisconsin, respectively, the bill passed with extensive support.

The bill came into development in 2011, when custom manure haulers in Marathon County were stopped by local law officials and informed that they could not travel on the roads.  Most farm equipment has become larger, especially manure spreaders and feed wagons for the so-called “factory farms,” often travelling long distances as well for manure disposal.

A couple of regulations aim to ensure public safety when sharing the roads with large equipment. First, any machinery wider than 16 feet and traveling more than half a mile must have reflectors, including tape. Furthermore, any machinery wider than 20 feet will require an escort vehicle with flashing lights to alert the public sharing the road.

Towns and counties can opt out of enforcement and allow local machinery exceeding limits to travel without a permit. Floatation tire equipped machinery would still not be permitted on roads.