Many years ago, a retired farmer was mowing his yard along a busy highway. A wheel came off a semitruck driving in front of his home and headed exactly to the spot where he was pushing his lawn mower. He was killed instantly. Sometimes accidents happen, and literally nothing can be done to avoid tragic consequences.
A farmer hauling grain on a road in Tipton County, Ind., was killed in late September when a tire blew out, causing his truck to slam into trees near the roadway. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that type of accident has claimed a life in Indiana.
Ed Sheldon, Bill Field and Yuan-Hsim Cheng recently released a 2019 summary of farm fatalities. The Purdue University team tracks farm fatalities, using clipping services and other reporting methods.
In November 2019, a 71-year-old man was killed in a single-vehicle crash of a grain truck in Sullivan County, Ind. He was hauling corn. It was one of 21 farm fatalities recorded in Indiana in 2019, down from 33 the year before, but squarely on the trend line for farm fatalities per year in the Hoosier state over the past 50 years, based on Purdue’s database.
Losing a life is the ultimate cost of a farm accident. Besides fatal accidents, the Purdue team tracks serious nonfatal accidents and relies on data from the National Safety Council and other organizations to arrive at the number of possible injuries resulting in permanent disabilities each year. The 2019 estimate is that 124 of these injuries may have occurred, Sheldon says. Obviously, many would have involved something besides hauling grain or grain trucks.
In the case of hauling grain off the farm, there are issues some people never think about until it’s too late. What kind of license do you need to drive a grain truck? When it comes to liability and potential exposure for your farm in the case of an accident, does it matter if you are hauling your grain or someone else’s grain?
Fred Whitford, director of Purdue University Safety Programs, authored three publications a few years ago that attempt to address these issues. It can matter whose grain you’re hauling, what type of license you have and even how the business you’re hauling for is set up legally.
Is it a partnership, a corporation or a limited liability company set up only for the trucks that haul grain? How much liability do you have personally? How much does the business have? Does either one have liability umbrella protection? The answers and details that accompany these questions can be complicated.
That’s why we suggest you check out these publications as a starter. Then ask your own attorney or business manager for advice. Find them at ppp.purdue.edu. Search for:
- PPP-091, Farm Truck Accidents: Considering Your Liability Management Options
- PPP-095, The Aftermath of a Farm Truck Crash: Lawsuits, Settlements and Court Proceedings
- PPP-111, A Farmer’s Guide to Indiana Transportation Regulations — be sure to check the updates to PPP-111
You’re not going to avoid all accidents. But if you keep your equipment and trucks in good condition and comply with regulations, plus make wise business decisions, you may lessen the odds of encountering a nightmare related to a grain truck accident.
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