Know your rules of the road for upcoming harvest

You may have been hauling wagons and other farm implements for years, but is your understanding up to date regarding Minnesota transportation laws for farm vehicles, also known as implements of husbandry?

Here are several reminders as you travel along public gravel and major roadways this harvest season. Remember, they were written with safety in mind — for you, your family and others on the road.

Key Points

• Brush up on implements of husbandry laws.

• Lights and SMV signs improve visibility on public roads.

• Know your size and weight limitations for machinery.

• License plates and vehicle registration are not required for implements of husbandry, but if the implement is being towed by a truck, the truck must have a license plate. A farm trailer with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more pulled by a car, pickup or truck must have a registration plate.

• An implement of husbandry, which is driven or towed faster than 25 mph, must be equipped with brakes if it exceeds 6,000 pounds gross weight. All implements manufactured or sold after Jan. 1, 1994, with a manufacturer's recommended capacity of more than 24,000 pounds must be equipped with brakes. Surge brakes capable of controlling, stopping and holding a vehicle will be acceptable.

• Implements of husbandry that exceed 6,000 pounds gross weight and are not equipped with brakes may not be driven or towed at more than 25 mph.

• Implements of husbandry must stay to the right of the center line except when passing or if preceded by a registered motor vehicle equipped with operating front and rear hazard warning lights.

• Towed implements of husbandry must be equipped with safety chains except when hitched to the towing vehicle with a fifth-wheel and kingpin assembly, or a hitch pin and retainer that prevents accidental unhitching.

• All implements of husbandry designed for operation at 30 mph or less must be marked with a slow-moving vehicle emblem. The emblem is a fluorescent yellow-orange triangle with a dark red reflective border, which conforms to American Society of Agricultural Engineers standards. The emblem must be visible 600 feet from the rear of the implement.

An alternative SMV emblem that is black with a white reflective border may be used with a special permit from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The alternate emblem cannot be used from sunset to sunrise or at any time when visibility is impaired.

Towed implements, which obscure the towing vehicle’s SMV sign, must display an emblem of their own.

• Chains, ropes or cables used for towing farm implements or vehicles must be marked with a flag that’s red, white, orange or yellow, and at least 12 inches square.

• Amber flashing hazard lights are required at all times on self-propelled implements. Other lights are required on implements of husbandry (regardless of manufacture date) from sunset to sunrise, when it is raining or any time visibility is impaired. Although not required by law, lights used during daylight will enhance equipment visibility.

Lights on self-propelled implements must include at least:

• two amber flashing hazard warning lights visible to front and rear

• one white headlight visible to front

• one red taillight visible to rear

• two red reflectors visible to rear

Self-propelled implements may also display a rotating amber beacon.

Lights on towed farm implements must include at least:

• one white or amber light, visible from the front to mark the extreme left projection of the implement

• one amber or red light visible from the rear to mark the extreme left projection of the implement

• two red reflex reflectors at the extreme left and right rear ends of the implement

With some exceptions, implements of husbandry are exempt from size limitations: if the implement is being driven or towed at 25 mph or less, it is not on an interstate highway and it is operated within a 75-mile radius of land owned, leased or operated by the farmer.

With some exceptions, farm implements are exempt from weight limitations. However, the weight on any wheel of an implement must not exceed 500 pounds per inch of tire width.

Other safety measures to follow include:

• Implements extending more than 33 feet behind the hitch point should have amber reflectors on both sides spaced at least every 16.4 feet, with the rearmost reflector positioned as far back as possible.

• Tractors or other towing vehicles should be of adequate size to safely control their towed load. It is unsafe to tow any implement without brakes at any speed, if the implement’s weight exceeds twice that of the towing vehicle.

• If possible, pull over on busy or narrow roads to allow traffic to pass.

• Brake pedals on self-propelled implements should be locked together.

• Shift to lower gear before ascending incline.

• Reflectors, lights and SMV emblems should be kept clean and replaced when faded.

• Extra riders should never be allowed.

Most state laws about safe operation of farm vehicles and implements of husbandry are in Minnesota Statute 169. For more information or questions, call DPS, State Patrol Division, at 888-472-3389.

This article published in the August, 2010 edition of THE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.