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April 3, 2007

Specialist: Overweight farm trucks could bring heavy penalties

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Farmers who haul agricultural commodities and inputs should weigh the consequences of operating trucks thousands of pounds over the legal limit, said 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," said 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 said. 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 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 said.

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 said. "Farmers are allowed a 10 percent 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 said. "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.

A bridge law weight calculator is available on a U.S. Department of Transportation Web page, located at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/sw/brdgcalc/calc_page.htm.

"The Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division of the Indiana State Police has issued a statement on plates and weights, which can be found at our Web site (at http://www.btny.purdue.edu/ppp)," Whitford said.

"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."

Farmers with questions about transportation regulations can contact Whitford at (765) 494-1284.

Additional information on transporting agricultural products is available in two Purdue Extension publications. "Carrying Farm Products and Supplies on Public Roads," Extension publication PPP-68, is geared for farmers. "DOT Rules of the Road: Putting Responsible Drivers and Safe Vehicles on the Road," Extension publication PPP-65, is aimed at businesses and farmers who operate commercially.

The publications cost $1 each and are available through Purdue's Media Distribution Center. Both publications also can be downloaded online at no charge by logging onto http://www.btny.purdue.edu/PPP/PPP_pubs.html.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Source: Fred Whitford, (765) 494-1284 (work), fwhitford@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page

Note to Journalists: Other farm-related story ideas are available at Purdue Agriculture's Farming 2007 Web site at http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/farming

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