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IoH Supporters Say Passing Bill is Better Than Doing Nothing
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 02/07/2014

The lead authors of a bill that would standardize the rules farm equipment operators must follow when driving larger implements on roads and highways admit their legislation is not perfect, but they say doing nothing at all would be a 'much worse' alternative. Speaking at the Corn/Soy Expo in Wisconsin Dells on Thursday, State Sen. Jerry Petrowski of Marathon and Rep. Keith Ripp from Lodi explained that current regulations for larger vehicles, which were drafted in the 1960s, could be enforced on farm equipment today. And that means the heavier tillage and manure handing rigs used on many Wisconsin farms would not be allowed on the road legally.

"I know many farmers are apprehensive about this bill, but if we don't pass this soon you may be seeing a lot more of your local sheriff," Ripp said. "We know of at least six counties in our state that have purchased portable scales and I doubt they invested that kind of money in equipment that they don't intend to use."

The issue of updating implements of husbandry standards, or IoH, began when several custom manure haulers in Marathon County were told recently by local law enforcement that their equipment was too heavy for the road ways. Many counties and local townships have also begun cracking down on weight limit violators because they have less money in their budgets to repair roads and bridges.

"We live in unique times... farming has changed, but the law on this issue has not," Petrowski pointed out. "We must also consider the fact that more people are moving out of the city limits and building homes in rural areas. When they see large manure tankers on their roads, they tend to complain and that means officers must enforce rules that they may have otherwise let go."

Agriculture Attorney Jordan Lamb with DeWitt, Ross & Stevens in Madison explained some of the elements of the bill. She says a lot of farmers and custom operators have expressed concerns about the legislation, but she assured them that keeping the law 'as-is' would not be good policy.

"Many farmers don't understand how important this bill is," Lamb said. "It's very important that we get these changes put on the book because they give operators more room to work with than what they technically have now. We can also make adjustments to the law after this is passed, but first we need to get this through the legislature."

As part of the current IoH bill, equipment weight limits would be extended from a maximum single axle weight of 20,000 pounds to 23,000 pounds (an increase of 15-percent); and the maximum gross vehicle weight would go from 80,000 pounds to 92,000 pounds--except where posted and during periods of spring thaw. Anytime an operator would need to exceed those limits for necessary farm use, they would be required to get a 12-month permit. The permit must be issued by the town, county or state depending which government unit the particular roads are owned by. That unit of government would not be able to deny permits, unless there was scientific reason not to issue them. They do, however, have the right to designate a specific route that the operator must take to get from the farm to the final destination.

For larger height and width instances, a permit is never required but the operator must abide by certain rules. For example, if an implement is traveling more than a half-mile down the road and if its width is greater than 16-feet, the machine must be equipped with reflectors and reflective tape. Equipment that measures at least 20-feet wide must be accompanied with an escort vehicle with flashing lights. There is no regulatory height for equipment, but it is the operator's responsibility to make sure their machine does not exceed the height of powers lines, bridges or other objects.

And the policy would create a 60-foot length limit for a single machine and a 100-foot limit for combinations of two IoH. For combinations of three IoH the limit is 70 feet, but a three IoH combination may operate at lengths exceeding 70 feet, to a limit of 100 feet, as long as their speed does not exceed 20 miles per hour.

Petrowski says towns and counties have the choice to opt out of the process, which means local implements would be free to travel the roads without permits if they exceed the weight limits. Track-driven machines and implements with floatation tires would still not be made legal under the legislation.

Meanwhile, some of the custom operators at the Expo said the new policies would be inconvenient for them because they work in many different townships and counties, which means they would need to get approval for every stretch of road they travel on. But Ripp said changes could always be made after the regulations are finalized.

The measure is currently pending in the legislature. Supporters are hoping it can pass the Assembly and Senate and be signed by the governor before the current legislative session ends later this spring.

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