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Ask A Trooper: Do farm vehicles need pilot cars?

Question: I heard one of my neighbors got pulled over by a State Trooper for driving his combine down the road. The Trooper told him he needed a pilot car. Is this true?

Answer: Farm equipment may be driven or towed to the left of the center of a roadway only if it is escorted at the front by a vehicle displaying hazard warning lights visible in normal sunlight. The equipment also must not extend into the left half of the roadway more than is necessary.

Some of those combine headers are quite big. So if someone is not being escorted, they would be required to remove the header and tow it on the highway.

Motorists traveling on Minnesota highways this fall need to be aware of large farm equipment transporting crops to markets, grain elevators and processing plants. Farm equipment is large and heavy, making it hard for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The machines also make wide turns and sometimes cross over the centerline. In addition, farm vehicles can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles. All of these factors can cause serious crashes.

During 2015-17, 386 traffic crashes took place on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in six fatalities and 166 injuries. Of the six fatalities, three were farm vehicle riders; of the 166 injuries, 57 were farm vehicle riders. The biggest factors contributing to farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention and speed. Motorists should always slow down and use caution when approaching farm equipment.

Motorists should:

• Watch for debris dropped by trucks hauling crops. It is safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming cars or off the road.

• Wait for a safe place to pass.

• Wear seat belts.

• Drive with headlights on at all times.

Farm equipment operators should:

• Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.

• Use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph.

• Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at,jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).

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