Tractors may get state OK to go fast

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SALEM, Ohio – Ohio farmers with newer “fast tractors” – those that can go as fast as 40 mph – are on the road to becoming the first in the nation to have new tractor speed protections.
The House of Representatives May 8 unanimously approved legislation to allow fast tractors to travel at high speeds on the road.
Necessary. As more Ohio farmers purchase tractors capable of traveling at faster speeds, House Bill 9, introduced by Wayne County’s Rep. Jim Carmichael, serves as a common-sense update to Ohio’s tractor speed restrictions.
Carmichael didn’t have current figures, but said when he introduced the bill in the last legislative session nearly a year ago, there were already 160 fast tractors operating in the state.
“This is to get our farmer friends from Point A to Point B safely and keep them in business,” Carmichael said.
Changing the law. Current law says all farm equipment traveling on roadways must display the fluorescent orange and red triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem.
But legally, any moving machinery with an SMV can’t go faster than 25 mph, even if it’s designed to go faster.
And today, many tractors are made with higher speeds in mind. In fact, some equipment is driven at higher speeds in fields than on roadways.
At least one farmer from Carmichael’s district has been ticketed for breaking the 25-mph speed limit in a tractor, senior legislative aide Brock Miskimen said.
“There’s a lot of new equipment on the market that’s safe and very well capable of going over 25 mph,” Miskimen said, “so this had to be addressed.”
Data shows Wayne County has the highest concentration of fast tractors in the state, Miskimen said.
Why safety? Miskimen said the fast tractors are safer than traditional tractors in roadway accidents, making them more appealing to farmers looking to upgrade current equipment.
“A lot more farmers are getting these simply because they have to go on the road [from farm to field]. You can get there faster, and you’re safer getting hit from behind if you’re going 35 mph in a tractor instead of going 15,” he said
Spelling it out. There are catches to the legislation to keep the new law from being a free-for-all: The law would only apply to tractors designated safe to operate at high speeds by the manufacturer, driven by licensed drivers, and that display the proper markings.
The bill also requires all fast-moving farm equipment to display a slow-moving vehicle sign as well as a special speed identification symbol.
The speed identification symbol is a black and white circle with a number inside indicating the manufacturer’s highest safe operating speed.
The circular emblem also would be required on any equipment towed behind a tractor, and a farmer could drive only as fast as the lower speed allowed.
Farm children. In addition, the bill requires anyone operating farm equipment at a speed greater than 25 mph to posses a valid driver’s license.
It’s common practice for farm children under 16 to operate tractors on roadways, and the state recognizes that, too.
“Right now a 13-year-old can drive that thing as fast as they can get it to go. This legislation is a bit of a safety control for that,” Carmichael said.
Miskimen said a person without a valid driver’s license would still legally be able to operate the tractor on the roadway, but could face fines up to $1,000 if they go more than 25 mph.
Moving ahead. The bill, the first of its kind in the nation, was approved by a 97-0 vote. The bill is now in the Senate.
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at azippay@farmanddairy.com.)

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