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A farmer drives a tractor down a rural road on Jan. 17, 2019.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

When I moved to Ontario from Manitoba, I was surprised by farm equipment driving on the road instead of on the shoulder. In Manitoba, I always thought farm equipment had to stay either on the shoulder or on unpaved roads. Also, are drivers allowed to cross a solid double line to pass farm equipment? – Shelly

Farmers don’t have to stick to the shoulder when driving equipment on roads anywhere in Canada. In fact, no province requires farm equipment [to drive] on the shoulder if it can be driven safely along the main roadway.

Specifically for Manitoba, there’s nothing in Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act that bans farm equipment from driving on any roads, said Sgt. Mark Hume, unit commander for RCMP North West traffic services in Minnedosa, Man., about 200 km west of Winnipeg.

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“I’m in rural Manitoba, so it’s pretty normal to see farm equipment on roads out here,” Hume said. “If they’re slow-moving, most drive partly on the shoulder – but they can be on the road, whether it’s paved or not.”

Ontario allows farm equipment on roads too, although it’s banned from the 400-series and some other highways.

That ban includes the shoulders on those highways, said Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO), though there’s an exception for farmers who have land along those highways and have no other way to get equipment onto their land.

Or course, the larger question might be if farmers should be driving equipment on the shoulder in Ontario, even if they don’t have to.

“Narrow farm equipment should be driven completely on the travelled portion or completely on the shoulder of the road,” states the MTO’s Farm Equipment Guide. “If the driver has doubts about the safety of operating completely on the shoulder, the driver should operate completely on the travelled portion.”

Because shoulders are narrow, it’s usually safer for tractors to stay on the road, said Lewis Smith, manager of special projects with the Canada Safety Council (CSC).

“The most frequent type of single-vehicle collision with farm equipment comes from farm tractors being driven too close to the shoulder and rolling over,” Smith said.

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Tractors are vehicles too

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recommends that farmers stay off the shoulder unless their equipment doesn’t fit on the main road.

“If your vehicle is wide, then you probably need to use both the road and the shoulder,” said Mark Reusser, OFA vice president.

Reusser, a turkey farmer from around Waterloo, Ont., said he’s faced impatient motorists while driving farm equipment on Ontario roads.

“It’s scary, especially when you have someone attempt to pass you on the shoulder,” Reusser said. “These are vehicles just like any other vehicle, which means that we have the right to use the road – we need to go from field to field and it’s usually a short drive.”

While the laws vary by province, several provinces have limits on how fast farm equipment can travel on the road.

In Ontario, if the farm vehicle has a slow-moving vehicle sign – an orange and red triangle – it can’t go faster than 40 km/h.

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Likewise, most farm vehicles can’t turn quickly or “stop on a dime,” Reusser said.

“So we need a little bit of patience from time to time,” he said.

Crossing the line?

Generally, yellow lines separate traffic going in opposite directions. White lines separate lanes of traffic going in the same direction.

So, can you cross a solid line to pass a farm vehicle?

In Ontario, you can. That’s because it’s the only province where solid single and double yellow lines are just warnings. You’re allowed to cross them to pass another vehicle as long as it’s safe.

But in most other provinces, it’s illegal to cross a solid line for any reason.

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There are a few exceptions. In Quebec, for instance, you can cross a solid line to pass a farm vehicle.

In Yukon, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the law says you can cross a solid single yellow line to pass any vehicle — as long as you can do it safely.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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