Using common sense in operating farm equipment on roads

Gloria Hafemeister
With the approach of spring motorists will encounter more farm implements on rural roads.  While some rules changed, common sense on the part of both must apply.

OCONOMOWOC – The last thing Town of Oconomowoc Police Chief Jim Wallace and his officers wants to so is interrupt the important job farmers are doing.

Speaking at a Lake Country agricultural conference in Oconomowoc recently, Wallace said police officers do watch weight limits very closely because heavy equipment, especially at certain times of the year, can be very damaging to roadways and funds are short to repair them.

He suggests when hauling a heavy load on town roads, call head to determine if there are weight limits on the roads that will be used.

As for farmers operating with equipment on the roads, he says, “If something happens, whether the other driver was texting or passing where it is unsafe, their insurance company will be looking to see if you were operating legally with your farm equipment.”

While rules for driving farm equipment on roads have changed in the last couple of years, Wallace says there are other calls that the police department gets regarding farmers as well.

Courtesy on the road

We get calls about mud or manure on roads. If we have to send the highway workers out to clean it up you will get a bill,” he said.

When asked whether a farmer should be using the shoulder of the road rather than the driving lane, Wallace cautioned, “If the shoulders are soft you’re better off staying on the pavement. We see too many rollovers because the soft shoulder pulls the heavy equipment or load off the road.”

Town of Oconomowoc Police Chief Jim Wallace says both farmers and motorists must use common sense when it comes to sharing roads.

He also suggests using common sense and pulling over onto the shoulder to allow a line of traffic to pass when necessary.

Asked about parking a semi-truck on the road to load grain, he said it is okay if they place appropriate warning triangles or flares out so oncoming traffic does not assume the truck is moving.

Wallace says operators of farm equipment are expected to follow the same rules of the road as other motor vehicle operators. This includes the responsibility to warn or signal motorists of their intent to turn. Turn signal lights are acceptable but not required. Hand signals are also acceptable.

Wallace also pointed out that motorists passing a farm implement may not pass in a no-passing zone. The previous law allowing motorists to pass slow moving equipment was repealed in 2014.

He stressed to the crowd the importance of farmers being aware of the rules of the road regarding farm equipment including lighting requirements, weights, widths and lengths.