Trooper Reviews Rules of Road with Farmers

5/3/2014 7:00 AM
By Paul Post New York Correspondent

CHARLTON, N.Y. — Trooper Christine Bornmann hopes to become a farmer some day who raises orphaned calves.

That’s after she retires from the New York State Police Commercial Law Enforcement Unit, based at Troop G headquarters in Latham, N.Y., near Albany.

Until then, she works hard on keeping the agricultural community up to do date on rules of the road, with regard to farm vehicles and equipment, and helping farmers deal with inconsiderate motorists on rural country highways.

“People can’t pass a farmer just because he’s going slow,” she said. “That’s just part of doing business. They’ll have to be patient and remember, everything you eat comes from a farmer.”

It’s one of the many important points she raised during a farmer/trooper clinic at the LaRue Farm in Charlton, N.Y. on April 29, with about 30 farmers on hand from Saratoga, Schoharie, Fulton, Montgomery and Herkimer counties.

The event was hosted by Cornell Extension.

Bornmann navigated listeners through a lengthy and sometimes complicated list of regulations dealing with the height, weight and length of vehicles, and rules regarding their proper licensing and registration.

Federal law supersedes state law, she said. For example, the state Department of Motor Vehicles says a load, such as silage, doesn’t have to be covered. But federal law says all loads must be covered, so troopers could ticket a farmer that doesn’t comply.

Hay wagons are exempt from registrations.

Bornmann advised farmers what to do if they’re ticketed by an officer who doesn’t know the law: “Take your ticket to court instead of arguing with a police officer. They’ll throw it out. We don’t like being argued with.”

Following is a sampling of points she discussed.

Farm vehicles with a gross weight of more than 6,000 pounds must have a Class B license.

A vehicle advertising the farm or business name must have commercial plates.

The name on the vehicle’s registration must match the company name advertised on the vehicle, or its “doing business as” name, and the registration must be kept in the vehicle.

A truck or truck and trailer with more than 10,000 pounds must have state Department of Transportation numbers on the side that are visible from 50 feet while the vehicle is standing still; and numbers must be in a contrasting color from their background, such as black and white or blue and gold.

“Otherwise that’s a needless $150 fine,” Bornmann said.

These are just some of the many details farmers have to know and be aware of before taking to the road.

Bornmann said the heftiest fines are for weight violations, and are based on how much the load exceeds a given limit.

“The higher over the legal weight you are, the higher the fine will be,” she said. “Also, you can’t use roads with weight limits as a cut-through and exceed the weight unless you’re making a delivery on that road.”

The maximum height for vehicles is 13 feet, 6 inches.

However, a driver can be ticketed if a bridge or underpass is marked at a lower height, even if the vehicle fits beneath it. Vehicle owners are responsible for repairs to bridges damaged by a vehicle that’s too tall.

“If you break (it), you pay for it and bridges are very expensive,” the trooper said.

She also discussed rules for making sure loads are safely secured and for towing other vehicles. Chains must be of an adequate size and strength and cannot be chipped, bent, twisted or stretched. Otherwise, a vehicle could be ticketed.

A wide moving load of 12-17 feet should have a non-certified escort vehicle with flags. Loads wider than 17 feet require a permit. Loads wider than 25 feet must have a police escort.

Bornmann advised farmers driving slow-moving equipment how to deal with an impatient public.

“It’s fine to pull over and safely wave them by,” she said. “Try not to direct traffic. If you stop traffic you should be wearing a vest and carrying a flag.”

Several local farmers said speeding traffic is a major concern.

“You try to be nice to people, but oh they get mad,” dairyman David Wood said.

At the same time, Bornmann told attendees how to avoid problems that can lead to costly litigation, such as removing field mud and manure from local roads.

“You have to clean up the mess you make on a highway,” she said. “At least there will be less zeroes on the check when they sue you. We’re not a society that accepts responsibility any more. It’s always somebody else’s fault.”

For questions about farm vehicle use, Bornmann may be contacted at 518-783-3262.

More information is also available in a New York Farm Bureau publication: “The Farmer’s Guide to Truck and Farm Implement Laws and Regulations.”

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