CARLISLE— It can be somewhat of an inconvenience when you’re in a hurry, Mary Robertson of Mechanicsburg said in regard to getting stuck behind farming equipment while she is driving.
“I mean, living in this area you kind of have to expect it,” she said.
Farmers and operators of farming equipment that is eligible to be operated on Pennsylvania’s roadways are aware of the thought running through Robertson’s mind, and probably the minds of others, when driving their tractors and farming equipment on the road.
Chris Boaz, a resident of Perry County and someone who works in the agricultural field in Carlisle, said that he has had experiences where tempers have boiled over for drivers that were stuck behind his tractor when he was on a public road.
“You can’t get mad back at them, you just have to let it blow over,” Boaz said. “Getting mad is just going to cause road rage and it’s not worth it.”
However, Boaz went on to add that not all of his past experiences resulted in flaring tempers, and that there is actually a give-and-take aspect that goes along with sharing the roadway with other drivers.
“If the people are being patient with me, I like to get out of the way for them,” Boaz continued, “and they seem to appreciate that.”
“Some people have a respect for the tractors being on the road,” Boaz said.
Trent Wickard, a Shippensburg resident and owner of a dairy farm, also said that he does what he can to accommodate other drivers, but sometimes the situation is out of his hands.
“Depending on what size tractor you got and what you got behind you, you can’t always do that,” Wickard said.
Wickard also added that he hasn’t had any bad run-ins with other drivers that he can remember, but noted that he doesn’t travel very far because most of his ground is within a five-mile radius.
Regardless of what occurs between someone driving a tractor and another person driving a car, tractors and farm vehicles alike are allowed to use public roads.
To do so, however, certain regulations and guidelines must be followed.
Implements of husbandry (also known as farm equipment) that is infrequently used on highways and is used primarily for agricultural purposes such as the production or harvesting, are allowed to access roadways in the Pennsylvania to a certain extent.
According to the laws and regulations for the use of agricultural vehicles in the state provided by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB), equipment that is classified as implements of husbandry is exempt from vehicle registration.
Implements that would be exempt from registration are allowed to operate on roadways anywhere within 50 miles of any farm owned or operated by the owner of the implement to facilitate agriculture, according to PFB.
Registration-exempt implements are also authorized to provide agricultural services for other farms within the 50-mile zone of authorized use.
The addition to provide agricultural services to other farms within the authorized zone was enacted in 2012 after amendments to the Vehicle Code were conducted, the PFB manual said.
Implements in Pennsylvania are also exempt from periodic inspection requirements, and are not required to be equipped with bumpers, horns or rear-view mirrors unless the equipment was manufactured with those items.
However, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation does have regulations that establish some minimum requirements that must be met in order to operate on the highway.
The PFB manual states that:
- The steering system of the implement must be in safe operating condition.
- The braking system must function in a way that is consistent with the manufacturer’s specifications.
- The implement must have a parking brake system that is suitable to hold the machine on a 20 percent grade.
- Trailers, other than farm wagons and towed field equipment, that are equipped with brakes or that have an actual weight of greater 3,000 pounds, must be equipped with a functional breakaway system.
- Implements operated at night or operated during periods of reduced visibility must have a headlight and hazard light system in safe operating condition, and must be equipped with reflectors or reflective tape on the sides of the vehicle.
Implements will be required for registration when they are operated outside of the zone of authorized use for implements that are exempt from vehicle registration, the manual said.
In addition, drivers as young as 14 or 15 years of age, but no younger than 14 years old, are authorized to operate an implement of husbandry.
However, they are only allowed to operate on one- or two-lane roads that bisect or directly adjoin the grounds where the driver resides.
A driver’s license is not required to operate an implement of husbandry.
Any implement that is designed or operates at a speed of 25 miles per hour or less must display a slow moving vehicle emblem (SMV) on the back of the vehicle that meets PennDOT regulations, according to the PFB manual.
The SMV emblem requirement does not apply to vehicles traveling at a speed faster than 25 miles per hour; doing so would be a violation of the Vehicle Code.
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Daytime and Nighttime use
Implements of husbandry at a maximum width of 16 feet may be driven, hauled or towed between sunrise and sunset on roads other than freeways, according to the special width allowances provided in the Vehicle Code for agricultural vehicles and activities, as long as they are traveling within 50 miles of any farm owned or operated by the owner of the implement.
They may also be used on roads other than freeways if they are traveling between the farm of the implement owner, or the implement’s mechanic and dealer’s place of business, as long as it isn’t more than 150 miles away for agricultural purposes.
For example, buying, selling, trading, loaning or repair services all fall within these guidelines.
Vehicles defined as implements that are wider than 14-feet-6-inches are only subject to the special width allowance for operation during the daytime if they meet four precise requirements, according to the manual.
The owner must have liability insurance coverage, a minimum of one operating yellow light that either flashes or revolves and is visible to drivers in all directions, operating hazard lights, and an escort vehicle that rides in front of the implement with a sign on top of the vehicle that reads “oversized vehicle.”
Regulations on nighttime use of implements are different, however, with shorter distances and less requirements, based on the width of the implement.
The distances and areas to which an implement up to 14-feet-6-inches can go remain the same, but only two of the four requirements that would allow the implement to fall under the special width allowance must be met. Those two requirements include at least one yellow flashing or revolving light that is visible for drivers in all directions, and working hazard signal lights.
Implements between 14-feet-6-inches and up to 16 feet in width, but no larger, have seven guidelines that must be met in order to fall within the special width allowance during the nighttime hours and can only travel within 25 miles of the farm owned or operated by the owner of the implement, the PFB manual states.
The four daytime requirements remain the same, other than that the escort vehicle must stay behind the implement. The three additional criteria that must be met are as follows:
- The implement should have reflective edges or lights to identify the outermost edges of the rear and front.
- It must not be operated at a speed faster than 25 miles per hour.
- The driver of the implement must be at least 18 years old.
Farm vehicles, which are classified by PennDOT as a truck or a truck tractor to be exclusively used for agricultural purposes, are required to have a certificate of title and may obtain a biennial exemption from registration or a vehicle registration [farm plate] for the vehicle.
Vehicle exemption for farm vehicles is effective for two years, the PFB manual states, and the vehicle is not exempt from registration unless a biennial certificate for exemption is obtained from PennDOT.
The PFB manual lists four types of exemptions for farm vehicles:
- Type A, available to vehicles with a gross weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less.
- Type B, available to farm vehicles with a gross weight rating between 10,000-17,000 pounds.
- Type C, available to vehicles not subject to periodic inspection requirements with a gross weight rating, gross combination weight rating, or actual gross weight of greater than 17,000 pounds.
- Type D, available to farm vehicles that are subject to periodic inspection requirements and have a gross vehicle weight rating, gross combination weight rating or actual gross weight of greater than 17,000 pounds.
The biennial fees for Type A and Type B exemption is $24, Type C is $50 and Type D is $100.
Just because a farm vehicle may be exempt from registration and may or may not be required for periodic inspection, the Vehicle Code listed in the PFB manual requires farm vehicles to meet the minimum standards of safe operation when driven on public roads. Unlike implements of husbandry, however, a driver’s license is required to operate a farm vehicle regardless of whether the vehicle is exempt from registration or not.
The distance for farm vehicles also strays away from the limited distance that implements are allowed to travel by law in Pennsylvania, as long as the farm vehicle is registered. If the vehicle is in fact registered, then there isn’t a maximum distance that farm vehicles can travel.
Trailers and multipurpose agricultural vehicle (MAV)
Trailers and MAV vehicles are also exempt from registration as long as they stay within the designated distances listed in the Vehicle Code.
Trailers that are primarily used for agricultural purposes and are towed by implements of husbandry or farm vehicles are exempt from registration for up to 50 miles of any farm owned or operated by the owner of the trailer, according to the PFB manual.
The exemption applies automatically to trailers, without the prior approval of PennDOT, used within the Vehicle Code’s limitations in authorized distance, the PFB manual states. Prior to 2012, when the amendments to the Vehicle Code took place, trailers were not automatically exempt.
MAV vehicles, the PFB manual states, allows for the exemption of registration only when the vehicle operates on roads that are a part of the farm owned or operated by the owner of the vehicle, or on roads that are no more than five miles apart from the owner’s farms.
An MAV vehicle also does not require a certificate of title.
Drivers of all ages are eligible to operate a MAV vehicle, the PFB manual states, because the Vehicle Code does not express limitations or qualifications for MAV operators.
The PFB also said that the Vehicle Code is not clear on whether or not the operator must have a valid driver’s license when driving a MAV vehicle on the road.