SALEM, Ohio — Farmers are traveling farther and farther from their home farms to reach additional farming ground. With the travel comes the necessity to haul equipment and supplies and when the growing season is over to move the grain or whatever commodity it is to the home farm or the market.
The necessity means farmers are using semi-trucks to haul the seed to the fields or move the grain after it is harvested.
However, there is a question looming. What are the laws regarding a farmer driving a semi truck they own. From what the Farm and Dairy discovered, they can be somewhat unclear.
There are differing factors for different parts of the Ohio law and it all depends on what you are doing with the truck and who you are hauling the grain for.
One thing is evident: A farmer can drive a semi truck hauling commodities or livestock within a 150-mile radius of his farm in the state of Ohio.
The law, according to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 4506.02, states that a person is exempt from a commercial driver’s license when the truck being operated is controlled and operated by a farmer.
However, according to Lt. Martin Hill, Ohio licensing and commercial standards by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for Warren District 4, the operation of the truck has to be for the farm that owns it.
“If they are doing it for hire, then they need a commercial driver’s license,” Hill said. “You are exempted if you are hauling your own grain.”
One thing the Ohio Farm Bureau is anxious about is the definition of a farmer. Its public policy department argues the farmer could be defined as someone employed by the farm and not just the owner of the farm.
“The definition needs expanded in light of current agricultural practices,” said Larry Gearhart, senior director of local affairs, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Law enforcement has to consider who is driving the truck, what they are hauling in the truck and where they are going, when deciding whether or not a law has been broken.
But the law’s clear: If you intend to haul something more than 150 miles away from the farm, then a commercial driver’s license is required.
Hill said the law states clearly though that custom harvesters or livestock haulers are required to have commercial driver’s license. However, they can apply for a restricted commercial driver’s license. This license has limits that prevents farmers from hauling hazardous materials and other materials, but they would be allowed to haul grain and livestock to sales for other farmers.
The restricted commercial driver’s license requires one year of driving experience, a valid driver’s license, and certifies that in the two-year period prior to the application, the driver has not had a suspended or revoked license.
According to research into the state law by Hill, farmers and their employees can operate trucks without a commercial driver’s license in adjoining states if they have fields located there — as long as its within that 150-mile radius of the home farm.
In addition, Hill said, a farmer who is traveling within the 150-mile radius and is driving an articulated vehicle, meaning a truck and trailer, needs to have a medical card on file with the state. The forms are available at the bureau of motor vehicles.
The state does permit farm employees to drive farm trucks on roadways, as long as it’s within 150-mile radius, according to Hill’s research of the Ohio state law.
The Ohio Farm Bureau encourages producers to check with the state they are entering to find out if a reciprocal agreement is in place. There are agreements in place with Michigan and Indiana.
According to Kristina Watson, regulatory reform director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said a reciprocal agreement is in place with the state of Ohio and farmers can travel across the border to their fields or other farm needs as long as its within the 150-mile radius.
However, West Virginia does not have a reciprocal agreement. Steve Butler, administrator for the West Virginia Farm Bureau, said there is no reciprocal agreement at this point, but the West Virginia Farm Bureau is working to get something introduced federally so that farmers who cross borders to farm can do so without penalty.
“If they don’t have that law, then you may be in trouble,” Gearhart said.
Gearhart said some law enforcement officers don’t understand the law regarding agriculture and commercial driver’s licenses, and that can create havoc for farmers just trying to do their job.
“This is an area in turmoil,” he said.