When farm trucks go to work, they’re usually carrying pretty heavy loads, often over less-than-ideal roads. Because of this they need to be in good condition, but it’s easy to overlook maintenance on trucks that sit idle for long periods. Some farm trucks also enjoy an exemption from the same mandatory periodic inspections commercial truckers must comply with. That allows farmers to avoid paying inspection fees and to look after their own maintenance. But how well are we doing? How do our trucks rate when it comes to meeting safety standards? To find out, we asked the people who know: the provincial highway patrols.
As it turns out, we’re not doing all that well. According to the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure Motor Carrier Division in Manitoba, they conduct about 275 roadside inspections on farm trucks each year. A whopping 35 per cent of all those trucks are consistently found to have defects serious enough to require they be immediately removed from service. Another 25 per cent have minor problems but are allowed to continue operating.
If that failure ratio holds true for the total number operating in that province, more than half of all farm trucks should be pulled into the workshop for repairs before rolling out of the yard with a load. A spokesman for the Motor Carrier Division says the most common serious problem found by officers is related to brakes. Others include suspension, lighting and tire concerns.
In Saskatchewan, officers with the Transport Compliance Branch at the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure routinely find instances of unsafe equipment, too. A common problem there is farm operators not having the correct class of driver’s licence. As farm trucks get larger, producers need higher class licences to operate them.
The Saskatchewan Ministry recommends farmers also step up their efforts to check that loads on trucks and trailers are properly secured; the provincial regulations set some specific requirements that have to be met, such as having a certain number of tie-down straps or chains when carrying things like bales. Some oversized farm loads require a permit before they can be moved on a road.
All the different rules and regulations may seem a bit daunting. So to help farmers find the information they need on what standards farm trucks need to meet, the provinces have set up websites that include summaries of vehicle standards or links to the exact regulations.
If you’re not web-savvy, there are phone numbers to dial allowing you to talk directly to an expert. However, not all phone numbers are staffed 24 hours a day, so don’t wait until the last minute to ask questions. All the provincial ministry spokesmen say call as far ahead of time as you can. That will give you time, if necessary, to go out and get equipment or make the repairs you need long before you have to haul the load.
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