Governor signs off on farm machinery on roads

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 3.28.10 PMApril 30, 2014: Jane Fyksen- Agri-view

Governor Scott Walker last week signed widely publicized legislation revamping laws pertaining to farm machinery and travel on public roads.

Wisconsin’s new law (Act 377) increases weight limits for farm equipment traveling on roads, modernizes the definition of Implements of Husbandry (IoH) and creates a new class of vehicles, agricultural commercial motor vehicles (Ag CMV).

As farm machinery has become bigger, there has been a misconception among farmers that it was exempt from size and weight restrictions. While there generally has been limited enforcement of road weight limits on ag equipment, that had been changing of late. Several counties now own portable scales and have been stepping up enforcement.

“The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is very proud that the farming community was able to forge an agreement with town and county officials on this legislation in a bipartisan manner,” celebrates Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. “For our state’s farm families and agricultural economy it was imperative that the debate over farm machinery on roads was resolved before the growing season…It’s now up to farmers to talk with their local officials about how this law will be implemented in their town and county.”

Passed by both houses of the State Legislature earlier this year by wide bipartisan margins, the legislation was authored by State Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and State Representative Keith Ripp (R-Lodi).

The newly signed legislation modernizes the Badger State’s antiquated laws concerning farm machinery by establishing size parameters and lighting requirements for farm machinery operated on roadways.

It generally increases weight limits by 15 percent for IOH with maximum axle weight limits of 23,000 pounds and total gross vehicle weight of 92,000 pounds, unless seasonal or other special weight posting apply.

The act provides local governments flexibility in administering the length and weight limits. It also prohibits motorists from passing an IoH or Ag CMV in a no-passing zone.

Act 377, formerly known as Senate Bill 509, represents months of comprehensive analysis by an IoH Study Group that included public meetings and input from farmers, law enforcement, ag equipment manufacturers, local officials and others.

“This bill strikes a thoughtful balance between the needs of our agricultural economy and the responsible management of our state and local roads and bridges,” maintains Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb. “We will continue working closely with our many industry and local government partners including the farm community to implement this law.”

The new size and weight information for IoHs are detailed here:Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 3.28.24 PM

• Width. There are no width limitations; however, additional lighting and marking requirements will become effective Nov. 1, 2015. This also applies to an IoH being operated or transported for delivery, service or repair by a dealer or farmer within a 75-mile radius of business or farm.

• Height. There are no height limitations; however, the operator of remains responsible for ensuring safe clearance of any overhead obstructions.

• Length. A single IoH can be up to 60 feet. A no-fee permit may be required more than 60 feet. A two-vehicle combination can be up to 100 feet, and a no-fee permit may be required more than 100 feet. A three-vehicle combination can be no more than 100 feet, with speed restriction of 25 miles per hour (mph) or less, or 70 feet at a speed greater than 25 mph. Again, a no-fee permit may be required if a three-vehicle combination exceeds 100 feet in length. Further, towed units being drawn by a motor truck, truck tractor, or Ag CMV must be empty, which, by law, is defined as less than 20 percent full. As with the width limits already noted, the new length limits also apply to IoH being operated or transported for delivery, service, repair by a dealer or farmer within a 75-mile radius of a business or farm. Beyond these dimensions, standard commercial (single or annual) permits are required.

• Weight. A new maximum IoH-Ag CMV weight limits table applies. It’s online at This allows for a maximum single axle weight of 23,000 pounds and a gross vehicle weight of 92,000 pounds dependent on number of axles and axle spacing. A no-fee permit may be required if gross vehicle weight or axle weight is greater than the IoH-Ag CMV maximum weight tables. All operators must abide by seasonal or other special postings, and IoH weight limits do not apply on Interstate highways. Category B IoHs must be given an approved route.

There are exemptions to the new weight law. An empty potato harvester is exempt from axle weight limit and also exempt from Class B road postings.

There also are some exemptions for Category B IoHs, which include a self-propelled combine, forage harvester, pesticide or fertilizer application equipment, but not including manure application equipment, or that distributes feed to livestock; as well as towed tillage, planting and cultivation equipment and its towing power unit.

These Category B IoHs are exempt from axle weight limits unless local road authorities pass ordinances or resolutions enforcing 23,000-pound axle weight.

They are exempt from gross vehicle weight and axle weight limits when operating between fields and the highway for a distance of a half-mile or less. They are exempt from Class B postings.

An IoH traveling for delivery or service y a dealer or farmer within a 75-miles radius of a business or farm also is exempt from gross vehicle weight and axle weight limits and also exempt from Class B postings.

Act 377 also eliminates out-dated limits on hours of operation for farm machinery, i.e., any prohibitions on operating through the night and on weekends.

Further, as of Nov. 1, 2015, all vehicles exceeding 15 feet must have front and rear warning lights on and reflective material visible at any time on the highway, unless operating in daylight with an escort vehicle and two orange or red flags marking the outside edges.

All vehicles exceeding 22 feet must have an escort vehicle with hazard flashers activated; however, escort is not required for incidental travel of a half-mile or less.

The definition and weight provisions are effective immediately. By the end of May, WisDOT will publish the new no-fee permit application. This application will be used by all maintaining road authorities that require a permit to operate more than the new gross vehicle weight and axle weight limits.

The newly defined Ag-CMV includes equipment like a straight bed truck with a box spreader or a feed mixer mounted on the chassis. They have no DOT registration requirement and they fall under the newly expanded size and weight requirements. An Ag-CMV means a commercial vehicle to which all of the following applies:

• It is substantially designed or equipped for an ag use.

• It is designed and made primarily for highway use.

• It is used exclusively for ag operations, like harvest, applying fertilizer, spraying or seeding farm fields or distributing feed.

Finally, Act 377 also exempts all IoH and Ag CMVs from registration. It does, though, set new width limits of 10 feet for Ag CMVs, allowing up to 12 feet for certain vehicles’ fenders, fender flares or extending tires, i.e., pesticide sprayers and lime and fertilizer spreaders. It creates a self-certification process for Ag CMVs that must be completed by the owner or operator and kept with the vehicle.

Sellers of farm equipment must disclose the gross vehicle weight of farm equipment at point of sale, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

The State Patrol can only issue warnings, not citations, for farm tractors and Category B IoH vehicles exceeding the new weight limits until Jan. 15, 2015.

This delayed enforcement period does not apply to violations that occur on the Interstate system and does not apply to any official with the authority to enforce size or weight regulations other than State Patrol.

Wisconsin agriculture also needs to be aware that the no-fee permitting provisions sunset on Jan. 1, 2020. Provisions increasing the weight limitations for IOH and Ag-CMV and providing specified exemptions also sunset on that same date, meaning that the Legislature will probably review the permitting process within 5 years.

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Natalie EndresGovernor signs off on farm machinery on roads