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Changes coming for big machinery on roads with new law


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wisconsin’s new law regulating large farm machinery on roads is a compromise, modernizing some laws that haven’t been changed in 50 years. That’s according to the lead author of the Implements of Husbandry law, Senator Jerry Petrowski of Marathon. He says about 20 years ago, a combine was probably about 12 feet wide. Now they make them over 30 feet wide. That’s just one example.

When the implements get bigger, they get heavier, often exceeding road weight limits. Petrowski says the new law allows farmers to use their bigger equipment, going over weight limits to a point.  “It would be 15% on the axle, and 15% on the overall weight.. It puts in place new lighting requirements for real wide equipment that I think is really a necessity for safety. It also gives the local municipalities a whole variety of options where they can opt in or opt out of certain provisions.”

Farmers may have to get a permit from some towns to operate the heavier machinery on roads.

Petrowski says about 20 stakeholders were involved in nearly two years worth of discussions leading up to the final bill. He says everyone from farm organizations to local governments had a stake in this issue.  “I’m not sure anybody was happy, but they all came to an agreement that this is what they could live with, and this will allow agriculture to continue to move forward, prosper and grow in Wisconsin, and yet it gives local governments the ability to protect their roads.”

Some of the changes motorists will see include escort vehicles in certain situations, and additional lighting.  “If you go over 22 feet (wide), you have to have an accompanying vehicle, whether it be in front or behind depending upon if you’re running on a four-lane road or a two-lane road, and there’s going to be a phase-in on lighting requirements that over the next 18 months, people are going to have to have kind of a retrofitting of some lights, because when you have a piece of equipment that is that wide, there needs to be some means for people to see it.”

Local governments have the option to opt in or out of certain provisions of the new law, allowing them to better manage roads and bridges in their jurisdictions.

(Listen to our interview with Senator Jerry Petrowski on our website, here.)