Modern agriculture equipment has transformed the way that Pennsylvania farmers do businesses. Larger combines are allowing farmers to harvest more land in less time, saving on natural resources. In addition, the planting equipment towed by tractors helps farmers plant seeds directly into the soil—without plowing—thereby improving soil health and preventing runoff. This equipment is larger than the tractors and harvest equipment that farmers used a generation ago. In addition, farmers are starting to use custom planting and harvesting services—or are themselves operating sideline businesses with their own equipment. Pennsylvania’s vehicle code needs updating to reflect this change in equipment. We are supportive of two laws: Senate Bill 338 and House Bill 413 that will provide necessary changes to state law.
Currently, farmers cannot move equipment (either driven or towed) that is wider than 16 feet on Pennsylvania roads. However, some farmers have noticed that their equipment—notably combines—are exceeding that width by several inches. Many modern combines have four wheels in the front. That configuration helps spread the weight of the equipment out over a greater surface area, which reduces wear and tear on roads and fields. However, the tires may cause the equipment to exceed 16 feet in width. In addition, the planting equipment that allows farmers to plant directly in the soil without plowing may also exceed 16 feet in width. It’s important to note that farmers moving equipment between 14’ 6” and 16’ have to meet several safety standards, including the use of oversize load signs, flashing yellow lights and an escort vehicle. In addition, this equipment cannot be used on interstate or limited access highways and cannot be driven more than 50 miles from the farm. Farm Bureau is supporting Senate Bill 338, which would allow for agriculture vehicles up to 18 feet wide to legally operate on roadways. This bill would not make any changes in current safety requirements for agriculture equipment.
At times, farmers need to obtain permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to move equipment or materials that exceeds current width and weight guidelines. However, our permit system does not work for the unique needs of agriculture. Currently, a farmer that wants to move a wide piece of equipment needs to get a per-movement permit every time they want to move a piece of equipment from one field to another, or one farm to another. Per movement permits are cumbersome for agriculture and are not flexible when farm tasks are thrown off by weather. We are seeking the creation of a yearly permit for the movement of farm equipment with common sense safety standards. Lastly, we are seeking the creation of permit for the hauling of lime, fertilizer and seeds up to 95,000 pounds per load between the months of March and June. Currently, those commodities can only be hauled at weights of 80,000 pounds. We believe that increase the weight per vehicle will reduce truck traffic on roads. Both of these issues are addressed in House Bill 413 and we are asking for your support.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is asking for your positive votes on Senate Bill 338 and House Bill 413.