Fred Whitford invested a lot of time in teaching classes, advising farmers and writing a book on grain hauling regulations. But recently, he stood before farmers and told them to throw the book away.
"Congress is changing the rules and tends to be deregulating farmers," he says. "They are getting more exemptions. You no longer need a medical card or an annual truck inspection, for example."
At the same time the Indiana General Assembly was busy acting on a bill that brings Indiana in line with rules passed by Congress, which also grant certain exemptions to farmers. The legislation is expected to pass the Indiana legislature.
"We're back to square one in telling you what you need and don't need," Whitford says. However, he added a few caveats. First, if you're a conspiracy theorist, you might believe the theory that farmers are being deregulated only so the DOT enforcement division can prove how many violate rules, and then come back and clamp down with a vengeance. There are experts who believe that's what's going on, but Whitford isn't one of them.
However, he still thinks it makes sense to do certain things. "I would still have my truck inspected or do it myself and keep a record of it annually, just like you were required to do before," he says. "If there is an issue or if you're liable in an accident, you have proof that you were inspecting and taking care of your truck."
Many of the rules still apply – it's not like you're getting a blank check, he notes. Primarily, they apply if you're hauling for hire, whether it's a neighbor or not. Then farmer exemptions aren't recognized. They also count if you're more than 150 miles from home.