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Guest Opinions

Opinion by Col. John Butler

Written by Col. John Butler
Hay Loads and Harvests
Colonel John L. Butler, Administrator, Wyoming Highway Patrol

    The farming and ranching industries in Wyoming have been hard hit by the drought, and as a result there has been an increase in hay transportation in the state. To help the agriculture industry, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), in consultation with Governor Matt Mead and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, suspended the fees for the transportation of oversize movements of bales of straw and hay traveling into and within Wyoming.
    The fee is suspended as long as the loads are within Class “E” permit requirements and meet the safety measures and movement restrictions in WYDOT rules. This means permit fees are waived for loads up to 12 feet, six inches wide and 15 feet high. Sizes beyond these parameters are not allowed.
    The fee suspension is set to expire at the end of 2012, but WYDOT and the Highway Patrol will study whether it should be extended in order to continue to assist with hay movement.
    The following are safety requirements that currently apply. Oversize movements are limited to daylight hours on all non-interstate roadways. Loads must have warning flags, either red or fluorescent, at the extremities of the four corners of the load. They need a clean and fully visible “oversize load” sign, and they must have outside rearview mirrors on both sides of the vehicle.
    After daylight, straw or baled hay shipments up to 10 feet wide are allowed on an interstate. These loads, in addition to the requirements above, must have the following: amber clearances lights on both front corners of the load; red clearance lights on both rear corners of the load; amber lights – revolving, strobe or two-way flashing – visible to both the front and rear; and a visible “oversize load” sign on the front and rear of the vehicle or load.
    Prior to entering the state of Wyoming, the driver must contact the appropriate Port of Entry (POE) to gain clearance and provide the POE Officer with accurate dimensions and load description. This is crucial, as it prevents operation on a roadway, which has a restriction in place and avoids a potential safety hazard.
    I have been encouraged by compliance efforts and thank you for them. The Highway Patrol and the POEs continue to work with hay haulers to educate them on the requirements and restrictions and to facilitate the movement of hay across Wyoming. We appreciate the input of the agriculture industry as we continue to work together in this process.
    Switching topics, whether it is shipping livestock or harvest season, I understand the apprehension in a community when the Highway Patrol increases its presence. An increased presence usually involves one or more of our five Mobile Education and Enforcement Teams (MEET), along with additional motor carrier troopers and POE officers. The MEET mission is to travel to areas within the state to educate and enforce the commercial vehicle laws for all commercial vehicles – not to specifically target a company or individual. This occurs throughout the year, not only during certain times of the year.
    The Patrol’s focus is always “safety first” on these occasions. We work toward safety in a proven, effective way by educating the carriers and offering our services beforehand.
    For example, prior to beet harvest in the Big Horn Basin this year, we delivered pamphlets on the “Requirements for Agricultural Operations on Wyoming Highways” in the area. We also offered the opportunity for our troopers to visit local establishments and answer questions to those interested.
    In addition, we issued media releases advising folks of our efforts and time frame. Some people have taken us up on our invitation, and hopefully we have demonstrated to them our desire to work together. We would like to see more opportunity for this kind of contact outside of harvest time, which we know is an especially intense time of year.
    I assure you that the Highway Patrol is not coming to your areas with a heavy hand. Our educational efforts are focused on highway safety for all motorists. Our intent is to provide an ounce of prevention, or education and information beforehand, rather than a pound of cure, or enforcement after the fact.
    From Troopers to POE Officers, the Highway Patrol is familiar with the issues facing farmers and ranchers in Wyoming today. In interacting with you now and in the future, I have asked all our members to use the good judgment and compassion we always expect from them. I reiterate that the desire of the Highway Patrol is to partner with you to provide the safest roadways possible in our great state. We must continue to work together to achieve this goal.
    Rest assured the Highway Patrol will strive to do its best to continue to serve the citizens of Wyoming with integrity, compassion, humility, commitment and dedication. For more information, contact your local Highway Patrol Office or the Wyoming Highway Patrol at 307-777-4301.