DOT regulations: lighting and towing

Kristen Schulte, ISU Extension and Outreach Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

It is important to occasionally review Iowa Department of Transportation guidelines when hauling and moving agriculture implements and commodities. The following guidelines are taken from the Iowa Department of Transportation Truck Information Guide; this publication can be accessed from www.iowadot.gov/mvd/omve. Additional questions should be directed to the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement, 800-925-6469.

Lighting and Reflectors

Motor trucks, truck-tractors, semi-trailers, and any other commercial motor vehicle must meet light and reflector requirements as outlined by federal regulations (FMCSR Part 393.11).  Additionally, farm trailers are subject to the same lighting and safety regulations as registered trailers. Non-commercial vehicles, farm trailers, and implements must meet requirements below and maintain the lighting and reflectors which they were equipped with when manufactured.

At all times between sunset and sunrise when operated on a public highway, self-propelled implements shall be equipped with at minimum the following lighting:

  • One lighted white headlamp visible to the front;
  • One lighted red tail lamp visible to the rear; and
  • One lighted amber flashing light visible to the rear.

At all times between sunset and sunrise when operated on a public highway, towed implements shall be equipped with at minimum the following lighting:

  • One lighted red tail lamp visible to the rear, located at the rear of the rearmost towed implement; and
  • If the visibility of the lighted amber flashing light on the towing implement is obstructed to the rear by the towed implement or cargo, an additional lighted amber flashing light located at the rear of the rearmost towed implement.

The required light devises must be visible from a distance of 500 feet. These lighting requirements are in addition to the slow moving vehicle sign requirement of farm tractors or equipment operating at speeds less than 35 miles per hour.

Towing Implements of Husbandry

Any vehicle requiring registration when towing any other vehicle or implement on the highway is required to be equipped with and use a drawbar and safety chain. When two implements are in tow, a drawbar must be used and a safety chain is not required but recommended.

Raw agriculture products include commodities such as, but not limited to, ag lime, grain, hay, livestock, raw milk, straw, and fruit. Implements of husbandry include vehicles or equipment designed for reconstructed for agricultural purpose and used exclusively in an agricultural operation. It includes farm tractors, combines, grain carts, wagons, or fenceline feeders (referred to as implements).

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DOT regulations: weight regulations for agriculture

Kristen Schulte, ISU Extension and Outreach Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

It is important to occasionally review Iowa Department of Transportation guidelines when hauling and moving agriculture implements and commodities. The following guidelines are taken from the Iowa Department of Transportation Truck Information Guide; this publication can be accessed from www.iowadot.gov/mvd/omve. Additional questions should be directed to the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement, 800-925-6469.

Registration Weight Tolerance

In Iowa, all trucks and combinations are allowed to operate in excess of their license registration weight by up to 5 percent, but are not allowed to exceed the maximum gross weight listed for total wheelbase. However, if transporting raw agricultural products* trucks or combinations are allowed to operate in excess of their license registration weight by up to 25 percent, but are not allowed to exceed the maximum gross weight listed for total wheelbase. A provision has been added for this exception to allow processed grain (i.e. cracked corn) as a raw product if the corn is transported to the processing facility and immediately returned to the farm. Additionally, a farm plated truck transporting distiller’s grain is also included under the 25 percent weight tolerance waiver. These two exemptions, 5 and 25 percent tolerance, apply only in the state of Iowa; the one exception is in Minnesota the 25 percent tolerance stands for Iowa farm plated vehicles.

Gross Registration Exception – Lightweight Combination for Farmers and Private Carries of Livestock or Ag Commodities

A motor truck in combination with a trailer or semitrailer, operated by a farmer or private carrier hauling horses, with county level registration or special farm registration may qualify for a gross registration weight exception. If the weight of the truck with transfer weight of the loaded trailer applied is 6 tons plus tolerance or less, and the total gross weight of the truck, trailer, and cargo is 12 tons plus tolerance or less, the truck may be registered for 6 tons or less and qualify. If the truck or total combination exceeds weight limits, the vehicle must be registered for the combined gross weight.

  • Registration Exception including 25% Tolerance
    • Truck must be properly registered for 6 tons or less
    • Truck and transfer weight must not exceed 15,000 pounds
    • Combined gross weight must not exceed 30,000 pounds

Implements of Husbandry and Truck Highway Weight Limits

All motor vehicles except for implements must comply with legal and posted limits on roadways and bridges; when on an un-posted roadway or bridge, weight must comply with corresponding registration weight based on number and position of axles. Implements are exempt from legal limits of roadways and bridges, but must comply with posted weight limits on bridges. Wheeled grain carts, tank wagons, and fenceline feeders must comply with the seasonal axle limit or a 96,000 pound gross maximum on a legal roadway. Seasonal axle weight limits for these implements are 24,000 pounds per axle from February 1 through May 31 and 28,000 from June 1 through January 31. On a legal limit bridge, these implements must comply with 20,000 pound per axle or 80,000 pound maximum weight limit; on a posted weight limit bridge weight it must comply with posted weight limit. Tracked grain carts, tank wagons, and fenceline feeders or self-propelled floatation applicators have additional requirements that can be identified in the Iowa DOT information guide.

Oversize Loads

Indivisible loads and vehicles that transport indivisible loads which exceed legal dimensions or weight, may be eligible to be moved by permit if the government agency with jurisdiction for the highways on the route of travel authorizes the movement and issues an oversize or overweight permit. Single trip and annual permits are available, with different limitations on their use. Exceptions are permitted for wide loads transporting implements during day light hours on non-interstate routes. These trailers must be marked with amber lights and wide load sign recognition. Contact the Iowa DOT for additional requirements before transporting oversize loads.  

*Raw agriculture products include commodities such as, but not limited to, ag lime, grain, hay, livestock, raw milk, straw, and fruit. Implements of husbandry include vehicles or equipment designed for reconstructed for agricultural purpose and used exclusively in an agricultural operation. It includes farm tractors, combines, grain carts, wagons, or fenceline feeders (referred to as implements).

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Call before you dig…

Melissa O’Rourke, ISU Extension Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

As pointed out on the Iowa One Call website www.iowaonecall.com , Iowa law requires farmers to notify Iowa One Call at least 48 hours prior to all excavation.  Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays are excluded, so additional time must be allowed under those circumstances.

Excavation does not include what might be termed “normal” farming operations such as plowing, cultivation, planting and harvesting. However, other farm operations may be considered as excavations which trigger the Iowa One Call requirement.

Excavations in the farm setting include chisel plowing, sub-soiling or ripping more than 15 inches in depth, drain tile excavation and installation, terracing or digging.  Excavation also includes driving a post in a new location other than repairing a fence in its existing location.

There are all sorts of buried pipelines, telecommunications cables, and other types of buried facilities that may exist on farm property.

If a farmer fails to notify Iowa One Call, that farmer may face civil penalties and be held liable for damages caused to these buried facilities.

It is advantageous for Iowa farmers to comply with the Iowa One Call system because such compliance provides a liability exemption for farmland owners.

An owner of farmland used in farm operations (see Iowa Code section 352.2) who complies with Iowa One Call will not be held responsible for damages to underground facilities if the damage occurred on the farmland in the normal course of farm operation. Of course, the exemption does not apply if the landowner intentionally damages the underground facility or “acts with wanton disregard or recklessness” in causing damage to an underground facility such as pipeline or buried cables.

And farmers should not make any assumptions about the depth of a buried cable, pipeline or other facilities. 

It is easy to plan ahead and make the toll-free call to Iowa One Call to notify of the intended excavation.  Underground facilities will be marked with paint and/or colored flags to approximate the location of the buried facilities.  Iowa law allows for an 18-inch tolerance zone on each side of the marking, so excavation should be avoided within the tolerance zone.

If excavation is needed in the vicinity of the markings, additional guidance is available through Iowa One Call regarding how to safely accomplish the operations without causing damage or encountering hazards.

More information is available at www.iowaonecall.com.  The phone call is toll-free by either dialing 811, or calling 1-800-292.8989.

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