New bill would set road standards for ag machinery

Published 6:25 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced Wednesday that legislation she introduced with Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) earlier this year to improve safety on public roads across the country passed the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.

Klobuchar’s legislation, the Agricultural Machinery Illumination Safety Act, would implement a national standard for lighting and marking devices for new agricultural machinery. The bill passed as part of the larger Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011, which aims to improve the safety of the nation’s roads by reauthorizing programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Anyone who has ever driven through one of Minnesota’s many farm communities knows there’s a good chance they’ll be sharing the road with a tractor or a combine,” Klobuchar said in a news release. “Farmers need to be able to use these vehicles on public roads, and it’s critical that we have clear, consistent safety standards for allowing them to do so without jeopardizing their safety or the safety of others.”

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There are currently 50 different state standards for regulating the lighting and marking of agricultural equipment. That lack of a uniform standard has created confusion for manufacturers, farmers and law enforcement officers, while also contributing to public safety concerns. Klobuchar’s legislation aims to address both problems by setting a national minimum safety standard that would require new farm machinery to meet the guidelines set forth by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Klobuchar’s provision would grant the Secretary of Transportation the authority to improve these minimum standards as technology improves, but would not require the retrofitting of existing machinery. The bill has broad industry support, with backing from groups including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the American Highway Users Alliance.