Farmers, CDLs, Cell Phones & Trucks

March 08, 2012

Everyone knows the laws about commercial trucking are complicated.  So when you mix ag laws, farmers operating semi-trucks for their own farms, cell phone use, and commercial driver’s licenses, you have an interesting mix of rules and exceptions.  Here are a couple things farmers should note:

Minnesota farmers DO NOT need to have a CDL (commercial driver’s license) to operate a farm truck.

This rule applies when the truck is:

  • “Operated by the farmer or immediate family member, or an employee of the farmer;
  • Used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies, including hazardous materials to or from a farm;
  • Not used in a contract or common carrier operation; and
  • Used within 150 miles of the farm.”  (Source: Minnesota Department of Transportation)

So the farmers hauling sweet corn, field corn, soybeans, peas, etc, down the road, do not necessarily have a CDL.  And as it’s the farmer, relatives or employees driving the truck within 150 miles of the farm, hauling ag products or supplies, farmers can drive those trucks with just a regular driver’s license.  Many who haven’t worked on a farm are surprised by this law, but let me assure you:  Farmers get A LOT of practice maneuvering those trucks around very large, very expensive equipment in the dark of night over muddy terrain and in poor conditions with tight deadlines.  Most of the farmers I’ve met are also some of the best truck drivers I’ve ever met.

Like other truck drivers, farmers can no longer use their cell phones while driving trucks.

A new federal law went into effect this year that restricts commercial truck drivers from using their cell phones while driving.  It appears this law applies to farmers who drive a commercial vehicle, even if they don’t have a CDL.  If you’re in a truck, you shouldn’t be using your cell phone under the new restrictions.  The fines are steep.  The driver can be fined $2750 and the company can face fines of $11,000.  Certain hands-free mobile devices are still allowed, so if you rely on your phone while trucking, it may be time for you to check out what’s new in hands-free technology.

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