Spring planting season means many tractors and other farm machines on Minnesota's rural roads.

Minnesota law regulates farm machines on the state's roads as "implements of husbandry," according to Lyon County Educator Bob Byrnes of the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

"State law defines an implement of husbandry as any vehicle designed or adapted exclusively for agricultural, horticultural or livestock operations or for lifting and carrying an implement of husbandry," says Byrnes. "This includes all farm machinery, including tractors, other self-propelled machines and any towed vehicle that meets the definition of an implement of husbandry."

The laws are designed to ensure safety on the roads for farm machines and other vehicles. Byrnes reviews some basic information in Minnesota's laws regarding implements of husbandry.

--A driver's license is not required to operate an implement of husbandry. However, a truck towing an implement must have a license plate. A farm trailer with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more pulled by a car, pickup or truck must have a registration plate.

--An implement of husbandry driven or towed faster than 25 miles per hour must be equipped with brakes if it exceeds 6,000 pounds gross weight. All vehicles manufactured or sold after Jan. 1, 1994, with a manufacturer's recommended capacity of more than 24,000 pounds must be equipped with brakes. Surge brakes capable of holding, stopping and controlling a vehicle are acceptable.

--Implements of husbandry that exceed 6,000 pounds gross weight and are not equipped with brakes may not be driven or towed more than 25 miles per hour.

--Implements of husbandry must stay to the right of the center line, except when passing or if preceded by a registered motor vehicle equipped with operating front and rear warning lights.

--Towed implements of husbandry must be equipped with safety chains, except when hitched to the towing vehicle with a fifth wheel and kingpin assembly, or a hitch pin and retainer that prevent accidental unhitching.

--All implements of husbandry designed for operating at speeds of 25 miles per hour or less must be marked with a slow-moving vehicle emblem. The emblem must be visible 600 feet from the rear of the vehicle. Towed implements that obscure the towing vehicle's SMV must have an emblem of their own. Chains, ropes or cables used for towing farm implements must be marked with a flag.

--Amber flashing lights are required at all times on self-propelled implements manufactured after Jan. 1, 1970. Other lights are required from sunset to sunrise, during rain or anytime visibility is impaired. Self-propelled implements must have two amber flashing hazard lights visible to the front and rear, one white light headlight visible to the front, one rear taillight visible to the rear and two red reflectors visible to the rear.

Lights on towed vehicles during non-daylight or poor visibility periods need to include one white or amber light visible from the front to mark the extreme left projection of the implement, one amber light visible from the rear to mark the extreme left projection of the implement and two red reflex reflectors at the extreme left and right ends of the implement.

--With some exceptions, implements of husbandry are exempt from size limitations if driven or towed at 25 miles per hour or less, not operated on an interstate highway and operated within 75 miles of land owned, leased or operated by a farmer.

--Farm implements are exempt from weight limitations. However, the weight of any wheel of an implement must not exceed 600 pounds per inch of the tire width. For example, a single tire 10 inches wide can carry 6,000 pounds, or 24,000 pounds total for a four-wheeled implement.

For more information on laws affecting implements of husbandry, contact the Minnesota Highway Patrol or go to a public library and ask for Minnesota Statute 169.

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