Hauling Ag Safely – Having the Right Driver’s License

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Having the right type of driver’s license and tags on your vehicle sounds simple enough, but is it? If you are hauling agricultural commodities and livestock, there are certainly rules and guidelines to be familiar with. This is just one component to remember when driving on public roads, hauling ag commodities. There are many guidelines to follow and be familiar with. Today, let’s focus on the driver’s license.

First, we need to think about what, who, where, and how something is being hauled.

Is this a truck and trailer, a semi load of a crop or livestock, a tobacco trailer, etc. There are so many different situations and scenarios, and it is difficult to address them all here, but hopefully we can scratch the surface.

Let me mention two resources upfront that will help with questions. First, the NC Highway Patrol is offering educational opportunities for NC drivers that haul livestock, horses, and other agricultural products. Troopers in the commercial motor vehicle division are tasked with offering this education to us, and they are very thorough, knowledgeable, and willing to help us understand. The second, very useful resource is a booklet created by NC Farm Bureau, titled “HAULIN’ AG:  A Guide to Transporting Farm Products and Equipment in NC” (Fourth Edition). The booklet is a nice summary of federal highway laws that help us understand the many laws and regulations we must learn.

A limited quantity of the Haulin’ Ag booklet is available at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Sampson County Center and at the Sampson County Farm Bureau office, but also can be found on the Farm Bureau website under the public policy tab, or the Haulin’ Ag page.

There are actually six types of licenses available to drivers, three regular and three are commercial. First, let’s review the rules for a regular driver’s license. If you are exempt from requirements of a commercial driver’s license (CDL), this applies to you.

Know the weight of your vehicle(s). Every trailer (and truck) has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVRW) listed on the body of the vehicle. Look for a metal plate on your trailer, which lists all specifications, including the GVRW. For regular passenger vehicles, a class C regular license will suffice. According to the DMV, a class C license allows you to “operate any combination of noncommercial motor vehicles that have a GVRW of more than 10,000 pounds and less than 26,001 pounds, as long as the driver is 18 years of age or older.”

There are two other classes of “regular” licenses. These are a Class A and Class B. The only real difference between the two of these is that the Class A is for any vehicle towing a vehicle of 10,000 pounds or more and the Class B is for a vehicle that weighs 26,001 pounds or more. If the combined tow vehicle and trailer weigh 26,001 pounds or more, you will need a Class A license, but as stated earlier, if your tow vehicle alone weighs over 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class B license. Another good place to find this explanation is simply on the back of your driver’s license.

Many drivers on the road today have a commercial driver’s license. There are also Class A, B, and C types of CDLs. The following drivers of vehicles are exempt from obtaining a CDL:

  1. Vehicles for personal use
  2. Military vehicles
  3. Emergency vehicles
  4. Farm vehicles (that meet all exemption requirements)
  5. Operated by the farmer or employees for the exclusive use of farm
  6. Used for the transport of agricultural products, supplies, or equipment to and from the farm
  7. Not use as for hire
  8. Used within 150 miles of the farmer’s farm

As you review these exemptions, please note that an exemption from a CDL does not include an exemption from the proper vehicle classification requirements.

Please know that I am not an expert on these regulations, this is merely my research and interpretation of the law, and reviewing informational materials provided, such as the “Haulin’ Ag” booklet. The real experts are the Division of Motor Vehicles and our NC State Highway Patrol force. Much of the information I have provided here can also be viewed at the NC Division of Motor Vehicles website or directly from the General Statutes. Another suggestion for specific questions is to call the NCHP Fayetteville office at 910-486-1058 and ask for a motor carrier section officer.