What? No Tractor? No Driver?

What you can get by with and what makes sense may not be the same.

Published on: Oct 8, 2010
Harvest isn't over yet out there. Double-crop soybeans and fields that were planted late, replanted, or spotted in with soybeans in wet spots, are just now maturing. Some corn that was planted later, especially in northern Indiana, remains to be harvested. So if you're driving in rural areas, even if you're a farmer or farm wife and know all the risks of slow-moving equipment, it's important to keep your guard up.

What nearly stopped me in my tracks on a rural but far from deserted road in eastern Indiana recently was a grain wagon. Actually, it was two grain wagons hooked together. There's no problem there. Fred Whitford, head of Purdue University Pesticide programs, says you can legally pull two wagons behind your tractor or pickup in Indiana. Whitford ahs spent the past two years traveling the state, often with retired Indiana state trooper Mike Templeton, Clayton, informing farmers about what is and isn't legal when moving grain and operating machinery on Indiana roadways.

Many times, there is more that's legal than you think. And many times, state troopers, especially young troopers not yet trained in motor carrier vernacular, may not understand the law. For example, the one thing you do need hauling your own grain to town near home is a medical card. However, you don't need a CDL license to d rive it, and you don't need your farm name or a DOT number on your truck door in that situation.

Back to my trip through east-central Indiana on an early fall afternoon, headed west, into the sun. I was wearing my glasses, but my vision still isn't perfect. Up ahead in the shadows cast by trees form a farmstead across the road, there were the wagons, just sitting there. My first reaction was that it was a farmer pulling a slow –moving load of grain. Only after I got closer did I realize it wasn't moving at all. And what I thought was a tractor pulling it was actually a second wagon. There wasn't any tractor on front! These wagons were in the road. Right side tires were on pavement, not grass in the road ditch.

Is it legal? That's a gray area. Whitford often infers that farmers usually get a pass on parking a vehicle along the side of a road during planting and harvest since it's known to be part of their work. Parking two wagons literally on the road and leaving them unattended, that's pushing it by anybody's standards.

Fortunately, I was paying attention. What about the 16-year old high school boy heading into the sun a half-hour later or so after school would be out. Would he be paying attention? Let's hope so.