INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana farmers and their employees who drive their own farm’s semis are exempt from the Entry Level Driver Training regulations that took effect in February.
“The short of it is — if you were exempt previously from the CDL requirement, you would still be exempt, even with this Entry Level Driver Training. If they are a farmer operating within 150 air miles of their business or their farm, and not operating for hire, then they would get that exemption,” said Sgt. Thomas Burgett, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division of the Indiana State Police.
For Indiana farmers, the 150 air mile radius exemption from the CDL expands to include the whole state, Burgett said.
“You have the entire state, basically. If you are a farmer and you are participating in farming operations, you would be exempt from Gary all the way down to Jeffersonville. If it’s intrastate, within the state of Indiana, and it’s legitimate farming operations, they would be exempt from the CDL requirement. The Entry Level Driver Training hasn’t changed any of that,” he said.
But if a farmer is hired to haul grain for an elevator or co-op, then that may change.
“They are exempted from the CDL requirement, as long as they are not operating for hire. So, hauling somebody else’s grain — some farmers will take a load of their own grain to the co-op and then the co-op will pay them to haul a load of grain somewhere else — that is for hire and they cannot do that,” Burgett said.
One big change this fall for farmers is a change to the requirement that Indiana farmers move over on a roadway if three cars are lined up behind them.
“Previously, if you were in your farm vehicle going down the road and blocking traffic, the rule for Indiana was, if you had three cars lined up behind you, you had to get over. But sometimes, on these rural roads, it’s not always safe to get over immediately,” said Brantley Seifers, policy adviser for Indiana Farm Bureau.
Seifers said INFB worked with legislators to update that rule to give farmers 10 minutes to find a safe place to pull over and let traffic pass.
“Now, if farmers are slowing down traffic because they are in a slow-moving farm vehicle, they have up to 10 minutes to get pulled over to a safe place,” he said.
Seifers said, for farmers employing new drivers, making sure that driver has a valid license and that the vehicles that new driver will be operating all have farm plates is imperative.
“In general, you need to make sure they are licensed and have that farm vehicle plate. The only time you need a CDL is when you are doing something that is outside of our farm exemptions. If the employee is 18, they can drive intrastate, but they cannot cross state lines — you have to be 21 to drive across state lines,” he said.
Burgett said one point of confusion for farmers has been about wearing seatbelts.
“Wear your seatbelt. In Indiana, there is an exemption for farmers that, when engaged in farming operations, they do not have to wear a seatbelt. That is under our state law,” he said.
“Maybe a quarter to a third of our ISP officers are able to do federal DOT roadside enforcement. We also have some civilian motor carrier inspectors who have the ability to cite federal code. There is no federal exemption that exists for a farmer exempting them from a seatbelt.
“Nine times out of 10, we pull a farmer over and they aren’t wearing a seatbelt and they say, ‘I thought I was exempt.’ You are exempt if you are stopped by somebody who doesn’t have the capability to cite federal regulation, but we do. So, definitely wear your seatbelt.”
Burgett urged farmers and farm truck drivers to be familiar with their truck weight when loaded.
“Obviously a majority of these vehicles are loading out of a field, so there’s not scales on site there. You definitely want to have an understanding of what your gross vehicle weight is,” he said.
“Even though there are some exemptions under our state law in Indiana, you can get a 10% weight exemption when you are operating off of our interstate systems. But as soon as you get on our interstates, you lose that 10% exemption.
“If you are operating on a state, county, local or city road, unless there’s some kind of local variance, you get a 10% exemption. But just realize that heavier vehicles take a lot more braking distance, as far as stopping distance.”
Burgett also urged farmers to extend their pre-harvest maintenance and repair and replacement schedules to their farm trucks.
“Make sure your vehicle is safe to be operating on the road. Take the time, go through the brakes, measure your push rods, know what your brake inspection limitations are,” he said.
“A lot of times, farmers, it seems, have a large checklist of things they are going through and, for whatever reason, maintenance on their commercial motor vehicle doesn’t seem like something that is on that list.”
Seifers said INFB works closely with Indiana State Police to both educate farmers about any changes to current traffic laws that could affect them and their farm trucking operations and to answer questions that farmers may have.
“We encourage our members to reach out to us, so I can write their question down and reach out to the state police and get a response,” he said.