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Ag traffic keeps steady as harvest begins

Do not expect traffic to change too much in Door and Kewaunee counties despite farmers taking care of planting last week.

 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, corn, soybeans, and oats are all over 90 percent planted as of the end of May. All are within a few days ahead of last year’s pace and over a week ahead of the five-year average. The attention has now turned to the first cutting of hay, which is about 27 percent complete and four days ahead of last year.

 

Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski says that means motorists will have to remain vigilant when sharing the road with agricultural vehicles as they enter and exit the roadway and into fields.

According to the Wisconsin State Farmer, 29 percent of the 34 agricultural-related deaths in 2018 were because of collisions between passenger vehicles and farm-related equipment. Joski credits recent law changes regarding passing agricultural vehicles and better markings for farm implements for the safe planting and harvest season so far this year. You can read more about how you can stay safe on area roadways alongside agricultural vehicles below.

 

FROM SHERIFF JOSKI

        

This past weekend, I was traveling down one of our state highways when I found myself along with other vehicles behind a piece of agricultural equipment. As we approached a passing zone, the vehicle in front of me began a passing maneuver, which I thought was risky as there were a series of driveways in the immediate area. Sure enough, as the driver pulled into the left lane, the tractor turned left into one of those driveways. Fortunately the driver observed this as well and was able to pull back into the right lane until the tractor had completed its left turn. I was glad that our newly minted 15 year old driver trainee was in the vehicle with us so that we could use this as a teachable moment. The lesson here is that even if you are in a passing zone following any vehicle, be aware of intersections or driveway access points as the unit in front of you may or may not be able to signal their intentions before making that left turn.

      

With June being Dairy month, I thought a quick breakdown of Agricultural equipment would be a good topic.

      

As the summer Planting and growing season kicks into full gear, we continue to see various types of equipment on the roads in support of the many agricultural operations which go on each and every day. Each specific operation brings with it a unique piece of equipment which may be operating on our roads and subsequently different guidelines and laws which govern that piece of equipment while it is on the roads.

     

There are three basic categories of equipment which you may see from time to time. The first is an IoH (Implement of Husbandry). This category includes those pieces of equipment we typically associate with agriculture such as tractors, combines, and choppers as well as the equipment they may be connected to such as plows, cultivators, and planters. There are specific laws pertaining to lighting, width, height, and weight which govern these units. One important law related to these pieces of equipment is that unlike other units on the road which you may pass in a no passing zone if they are going less than half the posted speed limit, if you find yourself behind Implements of Husbandry, you are not to pass them when in a no passing zone. Also, these units are exempt from registration so although you may see a slow moving vehicle sign on them, you will not find a license plate.

     

The next category of equipment is titled AgCMV (Agricultural Commercial Motor Vehicle) which may appear to be a typical commercial vehicle such as a straight truck or tractor trailer combination, but due to the modifications for agricultural use and the purpose in which they are used they too have special exemptions. While they must adhere to the various lighting and width/height limitations, they are exempt from standard registration which you would see in the next category of CMV.

      

The last category of equipment is that of a CMV (Commercial Motor Vehicle). These units, although being used in pursuit of agricultural business, are treated the same as any other commercial motor vehicle. They must be registered and equipped no different than their counterparts, and those operating them must have proper licensing.

      

In regards to who can operate various agricultural units on a public roadway, there are some varying factors. For implements of husbandry, they can be operated by any person age 16 or greater, as well as any person 14 years of age or greater that has completed an approved tractor operation safety course. For AgCMV’s the operator must again be 16 years of age and possess a valid Class D Drivers License. For Commercial motor vehicles, the operator must possess a CDL (Commercial Drivers License)

       

In regards to both registration and licensing of both AgCMV and CMVs, there are further differences which can change the requirements. If a unit is owned by the farm and operated by an employee of that farm in pursuit of that farm’s agricultural operations, then the operator would not need a CDL but rather just a class D license. If that same piece of equipment was hired out to another farm, then those drivers would then need a CDL. This is also the circumstances surrounding registration of AgCMVs.

       

In all matters pertaining to the rules of the road, all of these units must adhere to all of them. This includes abiding by speed limits and stopping and yielding right of way at controlled intersections. The only exemption is for IoH which may occupy more than their lane of traffic. These units due to their width may cross the centerline, however must still yield that lane for oncoming traffic.

       

It is easy to see how this can become confusing even for those of us who work in the law enforcement profession, and we are very fortunate to have our partners in the State Patrol Motor Carrier Division who assist us in enforcement here in Kewaunee County. If you have questions regarding the various rules and restrictions related to the operation of such equipment below is a great link to learn more. https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/agri-eq-veh/ag-cmv.aspx

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