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Illinois overweight hauling helps season longIllinois overweight hauling helps season long

The Illinois Harvest Permit wasn't tied to an emergency declaration in 2019. It was there from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 to help with early- and late-planted harvests.

Austin Keating

February 6, 2020

3 Min Read
farmer watching grain being load into grain cart
SEASON-LONG: In 2019, farmers and grain haulers could haul up to 10% overweight loads on state routes, just like in 2017 and 2018. This time, they could do it from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 because it’s no longer tied to an emergency declaration.

The Illinois Department of Transportation kicked off its first season-long overweight permitting in 2019, allowing up to 10% over the standard weight restriction on gross, axle and registered weights along state routes.

Farmers and grain haulers were also given access to the Illinois Harvest Permit during the 2017 and 2018 harvests, when the governor declared an emergency. For 2019 and future harvests, no declaration is necessary — IDOT can issue permits from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31.

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Kirby Wagner says 2017 was the first year the governor’s office issued a declaration for the permit.

“We needed it in 2017, and then in talks, we determined it was probably a good idea again in 2018. After that, we had discussions with the Legislature, and we determined since this is a time-sensitive matter, we wanted to offer the permit automatically every harvest season,” says Wagner, IFB’s assistant director of transportation and local government.

Farmers can move more grain more efficiently with the overweight permits because they’re no longer tied to the short window of an emergency declaration. While the declaration opened overweight permits for the 122-day period between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 in 2018, 2017’s only lasted for 45 days.

“2019 was a huge highlight for why this permit’s in place and why it’s useful to have season-long,” Wagner says, pointing to the wide window an Illinois farmer might experience between harvesting early-planted fields in early September and late-planted fields into December.

While permanent improvements to the overweight permits helped farmers in handling last year’s harvest, there is other policy that’s hard to fix, Wagner says.

Permitting problems

Some of the farmers Wagner talks with would need more than 10 permits during harvesttime due to local road districts needing to issue permits for routes that may intersect with county, township and municipal roads. Weight limits on bridges and highways can’t be exceeded, even with an overweight permit, so routes can sometimes get lengthy and intersect a dozen different road districts.

In 2019, Wagner says policy changed to where IDOT requires a route authorization to be renewed every two weeks for these oversized loads, giving the department the ability to change a hauler’s route if traffic on a state route changes, for example, due to weight limit postings.

Local road districts may put a day limit on their permits to check for high temperatures and avoid the damage caused by oversized loads on hot days before reissuing a permit.

“The problem right now is the number of permits; it stacks up pretty quickly,” Wagner says. “And that’s the frustration that we’ve communicated. But the Illinois road system is jurisdictional; it doesn’t allow a jurisdiction to offer a permit for another jurisdiction. We’re hoping that some changes can be made to make permitting harvest loads easier.”

He says while farmers hauling under 80,000 pounds don’t have to go to individual districts for permits, the farmers who do are burdened by having to contact county engineers, highway commissioners and municipal street department employees for authorization.

Wagner says farmers and truckers don’t want to damage roads and don’t want to undermine authority. “We just want to be able to get the crops out of the fields,” he concludes.

About the Author(s)

Austin Keating

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

Austin Keating is the newest addition to the Farm Progress editorial team working as an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine. Austin was born and raised in Mattoon and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. Following graduation in 2016, he worked as a science writer and videographer for the university’s supercomputing center. In June 2018, Austin obtained a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he was the campus correspondent for Planet Forward and a Comer scholar.

Austin is passionate about distilling agricultural science as a service for readers and creating engaging content for viewers. During his time at UI, he won two best feature story awards from the student organization JAMS — Journalism Advertising and Media Students — as well as a best news story award.

Austin lives in Charleston. He can sometimes be found at his family’s restaurant the Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon in Mattoon, or on the Embarrass River kayaking. Austin is also a 3D printing and modeling hobbyist.

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