Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Bruce Webster, OFA Director
Ontario’s economy runs on our roads. The goods produced and manufactured in Ontario spend some time in transit along our roadways. We need good roads and sound infrastructure to conduct business in Ontario. Ontario farmers rely on roadways every day to transport farm inputs and products, and move large farm equipment.
But improperly designed infrastructure can be a significant problem for farmers. The sheer size of modern farm equipment and farm vehicles require specific considerations and provisions when designing infrastructure. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) regularly monitors Ministry of Transportation (MTO) developments and changes as they impact farm businesses. We also rely on feedback from our grassroots member to help identify any concerns with regulations, roadway developments and enforcement.
OFA is currently addressing four concerns that impact farm businesses and roadway travel with the Ministry of Transportation.
1. The availability of the Farm Guide, a resource for the rules for farm vehicles travelling roadways.
2. The recognition of telehandlers as self-propelled vehicles of husbandry.
3. The design standards for roundabouts and their ability to accommodate farm equipment.
4. The safety hazards surrounding the proposed removal of the Glanworth Drive bridge over Highway 401.
For more than 15 years Ontario farmers have relied on the Farm Guide as a single source of reference for regulations governing farm vehicles on the road. OFA has learned that MTO is planning to remove this resource from their website and replace it with a series of links. OFA will be addressing this with ministry staff, requesting the continuation of the Farm Guide as an essential reference guide for Ontario farm businesses and for enforcement officers.
Self-propelled implements of husbandry, without plates, are permitted to travel on roads for farm use under the Highway Traffic Act. Some Ontario farmers are now using telehandlers on the farm. Telehandlers are self-propelled farm vehicles, but reports from our members show MTO enforcement personnel are not recognizing them as permitted farm vehicles. OFA is asking ministry staff to clarify the use of telehandlers as farm vehicles with their enforcement staff to eliminate further confusion on the roads.
OFA reminds MTO and municipalities that highway trucks aren’t the largest vehicles on the road. Large farm vehicles regularly travel our roadways and should always be accounted for in roadway and infrastructure planning. The current MTO design standards for roundabouts may not accommodate all farm vehicles. OFA reminds MTO to share the road – roundabouts intended for roads in agricultural areas need to be designed to safely accommodate both large trucks and large farm vehicles.
MTO’s plans to upgrade the current Colonel Talbot Road/Highway 4 and Highway 401 interchange near London by removing the Glanworth Drive bridge over the 401 will create safety hazards. Large, slow moving farm vehicles and loads of processing vegetables currently travel the bridge to move farm equipment over Highway 401. Removing the bridge will force farmers to travel other highways, creating obvious road safety hazards over longer routes. OFA is talking to MTO about this planning oversight, advocating directly for members that could be impacted by this construction.
Ontario farmers depend on well planned, safe and accessible roadways to conduct business. Farm vehicles must be considered at every point of infrastructure planning. Our large vehicles and equipment are often wider, taller and longer that anything else travelling on the road. OFA looks forward to moving these issues forward with MTO, keeping our roadways open for farm businesses.