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Overweight farm trucks could bring heavy penalties

Agriculture.com Staff 04/04/2007 @ 12:08pm

Farmers who haul agricultural commodities and inputs should weigh the consequences of operating trucks thousands of pounds over the legal limit, says a Purdue University Extension specialist.

"Producers need to be aware that law enforcement officials are keeping a closer eye on the maximum weight trucks, trailers and tractor-trailers are plated to carry, especially on the return trip from an elevator or any other pick up or delivery involving their farm or operation," says Fred Whitford, coordinator of Purdue Pesticide Programs.

Violators can be forced to park their loaded trucks until they replace the plate with one that reflects the vehicle's weight. They also could face fines ranging from 5 cents to 10 cents per pound for every pound a truck, trailer or semi-tractor/trailer weighs above the plated limit.

Laws addressing the transportation of farm commodities can be confusing, because they incorporate both state and federal statutes, Whitford says. Adding to the complexity are the limited exemptions afforded to farmers on some weight load laws.

State laws cover truck license plates, while federal laws deal with hauling weights.

Indiana, for example, issues plates for various weight limits up to a plated rate of 80,000 pounds. Farmers can transport more than the weight limit on a plate if they are hauling commodities they've produced from a field to the farm or from the farm to a point of delivery and are not traveling on interstate highways, Whitford says.

By law, no vehicle traveling on a road may weigh more than 80,000 pounds.

"Farmers are allowed to carry more than 80,000 pounds under certain circumstances," Whitford says. "Farmers are allowed a 10% weight allowance when transporting their produced crop from the field to the farm and from the farm to the elevator. Based on their vehicle design and axle distance, they may be able to haul up to 88,000 pounds."

The weight exemption does not apply from the delivery point back to the farm or field, even if a farmer is hauling lime, meal or water. The total weight of a tractor-trailer cannot exceed the plated weight.

"The exemptions allowing farmers to plate their trucks at the empty weight means that that truck is only going to be used for hauling grain to the elevator or point of delivery from the fields or farm," Whitford says. "Many farmers can take advantage of this exemption, saving them hundreds of dollars per plate.

"On the federal side, we have what is known as the bridge law. The law, adopted by the state, regulates the weight that a truck can carry based on the number of axles and the distance, in feet, from the front to rear axles."

For instance, a tractor-trailer with five axles measuring 51 feet from front to back can carry a maximum of 80,000 pounds.

"I would encourage producers and those who haul agricultural products to become more familiar with laws governing the transportation of those products, so they don't find themselves on the wrong side of the law," Whitford says.

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