Farmers urged to know machinery travel regulations

During this busy harvest season farmers must be aware of where and when they can drive their equipment when changing fields.

Recently, RCMP ticketed a Saskatchewan farmer for not having a permit when crossing a designated highway at night in a combine.

While farmers might take the chance that they won’t be caught, highways spokespersons in each prairie province said farmers should know when permits are required.

“Safety is the paramount concern but we also try to be mindful of the regulatory burden on producers,” said Saskatchewan highways ministry spokesperson Doug Wakabayashi. “There’s some reasonable exemptions to those regulations to support the agricultural community because especially at harvest and seeding there’s a lot of equipment that needs to move around and a very short time to do it in.”

Generally in Saskatchewan, the rules depend on whether the equipment is on a designated highway or a non-designated highway, the time of day and whether the implements are self-propelled or towed, or loaded on a dolly or trailer.

“Basically, a permit is not required for towed or self-propelled farm machinery if the farm equipment is being moved on a municipal grid road and does not enter on to a provincial highway,” Wakabayashi said.

On non-designated highways, permits aren’t required if the travel is taking place during daylight but they are needed at night.

“Farm equipment that’s towed or self-propelled requires a permit when it’s on a designated highway and protrudes either into the oncoming lane on a two-lane highway or into the passing lane on a four-lane highway,” he said.

Permits are also needed when equipment is being trailered and the load is more than 2.6 metres wide, he added. Escort vehicles may be required as well.

The list of designated highways, and all the transport rules, can be found on the government’s website but includes all four-lane highways and the busiest highways in the province.

There are also rules restricting transport on Sundays, holidays and the Fridays before holiday weekends between Victoria Day and Labour Day, depending on the time of day.

SGI issues the permits, either annual or temporary, and Wakabayashi said equipment operators must know which rules apply in their areas.

There could also be municipal bylaws affecting other roads.

In terms of lighting, that falls under the vehicle equipment regulations that SGI administers. Unregistered vehicles must be equipped with lights, both front and rear, and reflectors when operating at night.

“In terms of warning beacons, they’re not mandatory but we do recommend them,” said Wakabayashi.

In Manitoba, a government spokesperson said the Lighting and Marking of Agricultural Equipment on Highways regulation treats new and existing equipment differently when it comes to lighting.

Equipment made before Jan. 1, 1998, is considered existing and can use temporary or portable lighting when moving at night. New equipment made after that date must be fully equipped with all required lighting, day or night, and must have flashing warning lights.

That province requires permits when the height, length or weight of a vehicle exceeds those prescribed in regulations. In any situation, a vehicle can’t be taller than 4.15 metres.

“Over-width permits are not required for agricultural equipment or farm tractors, which are temporarily operated (self-propelled) or drawn (towed) on a highway,” said the spokesperson.

Farm equipment is exempt from these permits in some situations, such as going for repairs or moving between farms.

The requirements are set out in the Manitoba Vehicle Weights and Dimensions on Classes of Highways Regulation 155/2018.

“Farm equipment operators can be charged under the Highway Traffic Act if they fail to comply with requirements,” said the spokesperson. “Depending on the violation, fines range from $174 to several thousand dollars.”

Operators with questions should contact Manitoba Permit Services by phone or email before they move equipment.

Alberta queries can be addressed through guidelines called Safe Transportation of Farm Equipment in Alberta.

An Alberta Transportation spokesperson said farm equipment can move on highways day or night, as long as all the proper safety equipment is installed.

“Tractors and self-propelled equipment must have a rear-view mirror and slow-moving vehicle sign installed on them for daytime travel, as well as warning flags if the equipment is deemed a wide load (more than 2.6 metres),” the spokesperson said. “If travelling at night or in inclement weather or conditions that reduce visibility, farm equipment needs to have lighting installed.”

That lighting includes at least two and a maximum of four headlamps and two red taillights. Vehicles wider than 2.6 metres require amber warning lights on the sides.

Farm equipment is allowed on all Alberta highways but some municipalities don’t allow slow-moving vehicles on highways, so there could be local bylaws in place.

For more information on the rules of the road for farm equipment in each province, check provincial websites.

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