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Ag publications help truckers hit the road, legally

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Written Friday, June 10, 2005  

Federal and state transportation laws can be confusing to farmers and others who haul and deliver agricultural products over-the-road. Vehicle operators need to understand the regulations so they can keep on truckin' legally, said a Purdue University Extension specialist.

Regulations are far more stringent for those who haul heavier loads over greater distances for hire, said Fred Whitford, coordinator of Purdue Pesticide Programs.

"There's a tremendous difference between farmers who transport their own goods and commercial drivers who haul supplies and materials for co-ops and independent ag retailers," Whitford said. "Farmers are given many exemptions to federal Department of Transportation and state regulations, as compared to the commercial operators."

Those regulations, and which ones apply to whom, are contained in two new Purdue Extension publications. "Carrying Farm Products and Supplies on Public Roads," Extension publication PPP-68, is geared for exempted farmers. "DOT Rules of the Road," Extension publication PPP-65, is aimed at businesses and farmers who operate commercially.

The publications cost $1 each and are available through Purdue's Media Distribution Center. Both publications also can be downloaded online at no charge by logging onto http://www.btny.purdue.edu/PPP/PPP_pubs.html .

For a farmer to be exempt from commercial operator's rules they must meet specific criteria, said Whitford, lead author of the two Purdue publications.

"Farmers have to stay within 150 miles of their farm when transporting goods, be hauling their own products -- with some exceptions -- and use their own vehicles," he said.

The law also defines DOT regulations and what inspectors can check along highways.

"In the state of Indiana, any vehicle or combination of vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight is subject to DOT and state regulations," Whitford said. "The regulations cover transportation rules that deal with commercial drivers licenses (CDLs), medical cards, annual vehicle inspections, placards for hazardous materials, training, log books -- and the list goes on."

In addition to those topics, "DOT Rules of the Road" covers such topics as the regulatory structure of transportation, roadside inspections, compliance audits, vehicle safety and hauling hazardous chemicals. The 86-page publication also contains a list of the nine classes of hazards in the DOT classification system.

Farmers not driving for hire enjoy a plethora of exemptions, which are covered in "Carrying Farm Products and Supplies on Public Roads," Whitford said.

"They're given such exemptions as purchasing farmer plates; driving a combination semi-truck needing nothing more than a regular license and a medical evaluation; using off-road fuel that's not taxed; given a 10 percent allowance over their weights when they're hauling to their first destination; and hauling two anhydrous tanks without needing a hazardous endorsement or CDL," he said. "Farmers are given the exemptions in good faith that they are not going to be hauling, for money, other people's products, and that they are going to be staying local."

Other issues addressed in the 38-page exempt farmer publication include seat belt usage, surge brakes, slow-moving-vehicle signs, legal lengths and widths of farm vehicles, hazardous materials transportation security plans, weigh stations and regulatory reciprocity between Indiana and bordering states.

Because many transportation laws are similar among states, farmers in all parts of the United States should benefit from information in the two publications, Whitford said. He added that he knows of no other Extension publications as thorough on ag-related transportation regulations.

To order the publications from the Media Distribution Center, call Purdue's toll-free Extension hotline at 1-888-398-4636 (EXT-INFO).

Other contributors to the publications were Steve Salomon, Excel Co-op; Michael Templeton and Delinda Davis, Indiana State Police; Gerry Blase, Asplundh Railroad; Brian Miller, Agrium Retail; and John Massey, Western Farm Service.

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