The signs of spring in Wisconsin are right around the corner, birds chirping, warm sunshine and… road restrictions. It’s important to pay attention to the weight of your farm equipment load and get a permit if necessary, or you could get a costly fine.
Fond du Lac County Highway Commissioner Tom Janke says the point of road restrictions are to help preserve local roads. He says you won’t see immediate damage from hauling over the legal load limit, but it’s a progressive strain on the road that will cause the pavement to deteriorate over time.
“Our roads are only designed to really carry up to certain loads. A lot of them were built well before our current farming practices and our larger agricultural equipment and even our larger trucks,” Janke explains.
He says pavement life is roughly 20 to 25 years. If load restrictions aren’t followed, it ultimately affects that lifespan. He warns that taking a heavy load across a posted bridge is risky and can jeopardize the structure.
How Roads Are Monitored
Ashland County Highway Commissioner Matt Erickson uses frost tubes in the ground to measure the depth of frost. In the spring, the surface thaws first. Once the thaw gets through the asphalt and softens the base layer – usually mid-March – that’s when the road restrictions go up.
“We’re not trying to stop the farmers from making a living or getting what they need,” he says. “Our roads are expensive to maintain and replace, and we need to do what we can to preserve them.”
Janke says roads are inspected every other year and given a 1-10 rating. It’s required by state statute. A visual evaluation of cracks, for example, and performance tests help measure road condition.
Advice for driving on roads with heavy loads
- Stay off the road as much as possible during the spring thaw. Winter is the best time to move your heaviest loads before the thaw starts.
- Haul loads within the statutory limits – it might mean an extra trip
- Visit the DoT website to check routes
- Apply for a permit to haul a heavy load during the spring thaw
A Legislative Solution
Legislation is circulating the State Capitol that would create the Ag-Road Improvement Program, which will invest $150 million in local, rural roads.
“If you ask any farmer, they will tell you that their biggest hurdle to get products to market are the roads right outside their farms,” says WFBF Director of Governmental Relations Jason Mugnaini. “Weight restrictions, alternative routes, running partial loads and crumbling infrastructure in rural Wisconsin are creating serious challenges for agriculture and straining the food supply chain.”
Talk to your Rural Mutual agent about any changes to your agriculture equipment and make sure you’re properly protected.