Be informed if you get stopped

Those farmers who don’t sleep well on windy nights sometimes have nightmares. One of the worst is being pulled over by an Indiana State Police motor carrier officer. If you’re normal, your heart rate increases, your palms get sweaty and your mouth gets dry. You naturally fear the worst.

There’s no reason to panic, says Mike Templeton, a former Indiana State Police trooper who worked with the motor carrier division. He’s now a surface transportation consultant, based in Clayton, Ind. Templeton and Fred Whitford, in charge of Purdue University pesticide safety programs, have traveled the state, helping farmers sort fact from fiction when it comes to transporting farm goods on highways. One of their first recommendations is to stay calm and think before you answer questions.

“Part of the problem in the whole area of transporting farm goods is that many different agencies get involved,” Whitford says. “Sometimes it seems to a farmer that everybody controls transportation. Questions arise, such as whether you need a commercial driver’s license, or if you can legally use a farm plate.

“The best advice is to ask simple questions, and make sure you’re asking the right people. Let the person you’re talking to know you’re a farmer, then ask the question. If you get multiple answers from multiple places, stick with the agency responsible for that regulation.”

Key Points

• Farmers receive exemptions from regulations if they haul their own goods.

• Many different agencies regulate farm transportation.

• Make sure the officers understand that you are a farmer.

Out on the road

You’re hauling your grain to the elevator. An officer pulls you over. Take a deep breath and put your thinking cap on, Templeton says.

If you say too much, you could trigger the officer to suspect that you don’t qualify for exemptions farmers enjoy.

“Be truthful when you answer questions, but answer the question and then wait for the next one,” Templeton says. “The officer may be trying to determine if you’re a farmer.

“The law defines a farmer as someone who produces crops, transports his own crops to town or supplies to the farm, and isn’t doing it for someone else or for outside compensation.”

If you’re hauling for a neighbor for compensation you become a commercial hauler, and a whole new set of rules apply, Templeton says.

You’re a farmer

One of the first questions many officers ask is: “Are you in business?” If you’re a farmer and deserve the exemptions farmers receive, answer him very simply, Templeton advises. “Make sure he understands you’re a farmer. Watch out for loaded questions.”

For example, the dialogue might go like this:

Officer: Are you in business?

Driver: No, I am a farmer.

Officer: Who are you driving for?

Driver: I’m hauling for myself. I’m a farmer.

“Tell the truth, but be explicit,” Templeton advises. “Make sure the officer understands you’re a farmer. Then a whole different set of rules apply. You’re not required to do many things that a commercial operator must do.”

Editor’s note: this is not intended as legal advice. For specific questions, visit: www.btny.purdue.edu/ppp, or e-mail fwhitford@purdue.edu.

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THINK BEFORE YOU ANSWER: How you answer an officer’s questions during a stop may determine the outcome say Mike Templeton (left) and Fred Whitford.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.