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13 Questions and Answers About Farm Transportation Regulations

Safety has to be your number one concern when it comes to transportation, says Mike Templeton. As a trooper with the Indiana State Police for 34 years, Templeton has seen enough fatal accidents to reinforce this priority. Now, as an independent transportation consultant, he works with companies as well as farmers to make sure they follow reasonable safety practices and abide by regulatory guidelines.

Quite frequently, this is easier said than done.

Templeton recalls a farm visit where the farmer told Templeton that he was reluctant to spend time examining a truck he only drove 500 miles each year. That same day, as the farmer pulled the truck out of the barn onto a slope, the hydraulic line ruptured, putting the brakes out of commission. With no way to slow down, the truck cruised toward a highway at the end of the drive. To avoid crossing the busy roadway, the farmer crashed the truck into a tree.

“The farmer crawled out and said, ‘Maybe checking this old truck once in a while isn’t such a bad idea after all,’ ” says Templeton.

Regular inspections are an integral aspect of transportation safety, but are you required to do annual inspections? Are you required to have your CDL if you’re traveling out of state? In part one of this Transportation Tips series, Templeton explains which regulations you must follow and which ones you are exempt from. Part two of the series will be in the May issue of Successful Farming magazine and will go beyond regulations to cover what’s necessary for safe transportation.


The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) became a law in 2012. It gives a broad exemption from many federal regulations for vehicles that are classified as covered farm vehicles (CFV). Below are some of the frequently asked questions – and answers – about MAP-21.

1. What vehicles can be classified as CFVs?

Any vehicle that is used to transport ag commodities, livestock, machinery, or supplies to and from a farm. The vehicle must be operated by the owner of the farm, a family member, or an employee. Rented equipment can also be considered a CFV as long as you have a lease agreement showing the vehicle will be used on the farm.

2. How do you identify a vehicle as a CFV?

To get license plates for a CFV, you can register the vehicle as a farm vehicle at the DMV, usually at a considerable savings. No additional license plate is required, even when crossing state lines.

3. Are CFVs subject to repair, inspection, or maintenance regulations?

No, CFVs are exempt from the annual inspection criteria as well as repair and maintenance regulations.

“I recommend that you take this exemption from the regulations very lightly,” advises Templeton. “It is one thing to be exempt from the regulations, but you are still liable should you be involved in an accident caused by not having brakes, lights, adequate tires, etc.”

4. If a CFV is inspected and an out-of-service violation is discovered, will the vehicle be placed out of service?

Maybe. There are certain out-of-service criteria that CFVs are exempt from, such as the inspection regulations and the maximum drive time for operators. However, there are others that you must follow.

“Parts and accessories on the vehicles have to work,” explains Templeton. “This includes brakes, lights, suspension, tires, and components of that nature. You can be put out of service for major unsafe equipment violations.” Applicable state laws, other than federal safety regulations, may also apply.

5. Do you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?

Not for the most part. If you’re driving a truck, combination vehicle (truck and trailer), or a semi tractor within the state you farm, you don’t need a CDL. If you’re driving out of state within 150 miles of your farm, you still don’t need a CDL.

However, if you go outside of the 150-mile range into another state, then you will need a CDL. You also need a CDL if you drive a truck for hire. The same rules apply for farm employees and family members.

6. What happens if you don’t have a CDL in one of the circumstances where you need to have one?

First, you will be put out of service and will need to provide a properly licensed driver to finish the trip. Then, there are steep fines if you violate the CDL requirements. The federal civil penalty is $2,500, although in aggravated cases, this can go up to $5,000. On top of that, you will have to pay state fines.

7. Within state boundaries or the 150-mile radius, are there any exceptions to where you can transport equipment?

“You can take your equipment anywhere you choose,” says Templeton. “For example, equipment can go to a repair shop, and there’s coverage under the MAP-21 exemptions. However, if the repair shop comes to the farm to get the equipment, the repair shop isn’t covered. Only you are.”

While you are exempt from size and weight restrictions on U.S., state, or county roads, this is not true when transporting equipment on the interstate.

“On the interstate, you must use signs as well as acquire permits for oversized equipment. Equipment cannot be pulled, towed, or driven on any part of the interstate system. Equipment can only be carried,” explains Templeton.

8. Since anhydrous ammonia tank trailers are considered an implement of ag, do these vehicles need to have a hazardous materials safety permit?

“Most nurse tanks used on the farm have 1,000- or 1,500-gallon containers with one or two tanks on a trailer, limiting the single move to 3,000 gallons or less. These would not need the hazardous materials registration or safety permit,” says Templeton. “The permit is only required when anhydrous ammonia is transported in a single container of 3,500 gallons or more. I don’t recommend that you take on that level of liability as this doesn’t fall into the farm exemption.”

9. Do nurse tanks need to have lights and brakes?

No, implements of ag are not required to have lights and brakes. “However, there is a provision in the regulations as well as state laws that require you to have lights at night. If the implement doesn’t have lights, this requirement can be met by having a vehicle with flashing lights follow the implement,” explains Templeton.  

While brakes are not a requirement, you still need to be able to stop while pulling anhydrous tanks. The vehicle should be able to stop within 25 feet at 20 mph on a smooth, dry surface.

10. Are there any exemptions in terms of proper tie-downs for equipment?

No, you are not exempt from having proper load securement.

11. What does this entail?

“In a closed trailer, as long as the material is packed clear to the front, from side to side, and is blocked from tipping over, it is considered secure,” explains Templeton. “On a flatbed trailer, any item that’s 5 feet or less needs one tie-down, unless it weighs over 1,100 pounds. If the equipment is between 5 and 10 feet long, it will need two tie-downs regardless of the weight. Loads that are over 10 feet require a tie-down every 10 linear feet. “With that, the securement devices, chains, or straps need to have a working load limit that is half of the weight of the article they are supporting. The securement devices must be tight, without knots, cracks, or tears,” adds Templeton.

12. Who’s at fault if an employee gets in an accident with a load that isn’t properly secured – the employee or you?

“First, the employee. When the employee puts the truck into gear for the first time, he takes responsibility for the load,” says Templeton. “Because you are sending the employee out, the responsibility will eventually fall back onto you, as well.”

13. What’s at risk if you lose cargo while driving down the road?

“The farm is at risk,” warns Templeton. “If you injure or kill someone because of negligence, you aren’t immune from civil suits. This could take everything that’s tied to the incident.

“Not to mention the damage done from something sliding off. This could damage the equipment. Or it could be environmental damage if a tank of pesticide spills,” says Templeton.

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