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FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Rules of the road

March 2017

Editor’s Note: This is only a partial listing of the rules and regulations governing agricultural and commercial vehicles. For more information, readers can search the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) at apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/ or contact their local port of entry. The Washington State Patrol has published several brochures related to commercial vehicles and farm:

WSP Ag Rules Brochure
WSP Vehicle Guide
WSP Farm Implement Brochure


With snow-covered fields and most large farming equipment tucked away for the winter, it might seem like a strange time to discuss some of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) transportation guidelines farmers need to be aware of. But before you know it, summer will be here with harvest just around the corner and making sure you and your drivers comply with the rules of the road is one thing you can check off your harvest to-do list early.

We asked Linda Powell, a WSP commercial vehicle enforcement officer for more than 27 years, to answer some questions for Wheat Life. Powell currently oversees the two ports of entry on the west side of the state and is the facilities coordinator for the 53 scales and weigh sites throughout the state. Prior to working for the WSP, she was a commercial vehicle owner/operator for five years.

What are the most important Washington state transportation rules and restrictions farmers need to be aware of when moving grain, fertilizer or farm equipment?

WAC 468-38-290 Farm Implements. A farm implement is defined as a device that directly affects the production of agricultural products, including fertilizer and chemical applicator apparatus (including auxiliary equipment). The equipment must be:

• Less than 65,000 pounds;
• Less than 20 feet wide;
• Not more than 16 feet high.
• Overall length less than 70 feet; and
• Air-filled rubber tires or solid rubber tracks that are nondamaging to public highways.

Farm implement permits are required on state highways for towed, hauled or self-propelled farm machinery loads more than 14 feet in height (up to 16 feet) or 16 feet wide (up to 20 feet). One pilot/escort with a height measuring device must precede the farm implement when the height exceeds 15 feet.

A letter to the Motor Carrier Services office is also required listing counties of travel, permit start date—quarterly or annual—and farmer or dealer name.

A commercial oversize permit is required when a piece of equipment is:

• More than 20 feet wide;
• More than 16 feet high; and
• More than 70 feet in length.

Full details of the requirements and a brochure can be found at wsp.wa.gov/traveler/cvd.htm or at WAC 468-38-290 or by calling the Commercial Vehicle Services at (360) 704-6340.

RCW 46.44.041 Maximum Gross Weights—Wheelbase and Axle Factors. No vehicle or combination of vehicles shall operate upon the public highways of this state with a gross load on any single axle in excess of 20,000 pounds or upon any group of axles in excess of that set forth on the table in RCW 46.44.041 (at app.leg.wa.gov/RCW), except that two consecutive sets of tandem axles may carry a gross load of 34,000 pounds each, if the overall distance between the first and last axles of such consecutive sets of tandem axles is thirty-six feet or more.

Are there any transportation rule/restriction changes for 2017 that farmers need to pay special attention to?

There haven’t been any changes for 2017.

What kind of training or licenses do drivers who are regularly moving grain or other farm goods or equipment need?

There is no official training required, but we would hope that the drivers have a working knowledge of their equipment. They should understand the rules of the road and the weight limitations for the vehicle or combination of vehicles and farm equipment they are operating.

Do any of the rules or restrictions change during harvest?

Some of the rules relax between Feb. 1 and Nov. 30. During this time of year, covered farm vehicles as defined in Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 390.5 that are transporting agricultural products are exempt from most of the regulations under MAP 21. MAP 21 exempts farm-covered vehicles from CFR Part 382- Drug and Alcohol Testing; Part 383- CDL; Part 391-Medical cards; Part 395- Hours of Service; and Part 396- Equipment Files and Annual Inspections within a 150 air-mile radius for vehicles more than 26,000 gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating and nationwide for vehicles 26,000 and under. They are not exempt from equipment standards, weight limits and oversize-load requirements. The Federal Highway Administration has published some questions and answers that are available online. If anyone has any questions specific to their situation, they should contact a port of entry. The CFR can be found online at ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/ECFR.

What is a standard checklist farmers can use in preparation for harvest and moving grain and equipment?

• Prepare for the season by conducting a thorough inspection of all equipment for any defects that may cause delays later. Part of that process is making sure the drivers know what to look for so they can report defects that need repair before an officer discovers it or before it causes an accident.
• Make sure the fire extinguisher and triangles are in the vehicle.
• Make sure the registration and insurance cards are current and in the vehicles.
• Are your drivers required to adjust their own brakes? If so, make sure they know what they’re doing.
• Make sure you have your trucks marked with your farm or company name and U.S. Department of Transportation number (vehicles operating on the farm Q sticker are exempt from this rule).

For farmers that regularly do business across state lines, what do they need to be aware of?

They are required to have proof of a fuel use permit when coming back into Washington. That permit can be in the form of a three-day temporary permit or an International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) permit.

If a farmer isn’t sure if a rule or restriction applies to them, where is the best place to get more information?

They should call their local port of entry. The Spokane port is at (509) 838-9400 and the Plymouth port is at (509) 734-7043.

What do you wish farmers knew about the WSP and the job they do, especially in Eastern Washington?

We want them to get their harvest in as much as they do. For everyone’s protection, we want to help ensure it is done in the safest manner to protect lives and infrastructure.