Troy Christianson

Large farm machinery needs escort vehicle if width crosses center line

Ask A Trooper

Question: I heard one of my neighbors was 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 by a vehicle displaying hazard warning lights that are visible in normal sunlight. The escort vehicle must be located in front of the farm equipment and the equipment must not extend into the left half of the roadway more than is necessary.

If the farm equipment does not have an escort, they are required to remove the header and tow it on the highway.

During 2013-15, 422 traffic crashes involving at least one farm vehicle took place on Minnesota roads, resulting in 12 fatalities and 204 injuries. Of the 12 fatalities, eight were farm vehicle riders; of the 204 injuries, 57 were farm vehicle riders. The biggest factors contributing to farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, unsafe passing and speed. Motorists should always slow down and use caution when approaching farm equipment.

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 difficult for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The machines also make wide turns and sometimes cross over the center line. In addition, farm vehicles can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles. All of these factors may cause serious crashes.

Motorists should:

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

•Wait for a safe place to pass. It is important to be patient.

•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.

•Remove bean or corn heads when traveling down the roadway if it is too wide to stay within your lane and the shoulder unless you have a proper pilot car.

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.

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester, Minnesota 55901-5848, or reach him at

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