Ask a trooper: November 5, 2014

 

Question: Is there an age requirement for a driver of a farm tractor? Do they need to be age 15 and have a farm permit? It is the busy fall harvest season and a person sees lots of farm implements on the roadways. Yesterday we were on a county road and came up behind a tractor.  This was not a small tractor, I would say it would be a mid-size tractor now days. As we approached I said to my husband that is a very short driver ahead of us. As we got closer we could tell it was a very young driver. He could not have been older than 10 or 11 years old. He was not going slow either.  I will say he did keep checking his mirrors and looking behind him for approaching vehicles. We were both concerned about such a young driver with no adult driving such a unit and going at a fairly high rate of speed.  It was tempting to follow the tractor to the farm site and ask to speak with the parents about safety. However, that could have led to an unpleasant conversation and could have created another story. Thanks for the articles, keep up the good work and be safe.
Answer:  There is no age requirement for driving a farm tractor. There also are no state vehicle driver's license requirements for operating tractors and other farm implements in Minnesota. However, according to the University of Minnesota – Extension Service, kids under 16 working OFF of THEIR parents' farm must be certified to operate farm equipment on the highway or in the field. Also, remember that even though it may be legal to allow your 7-year-old to drive a tractor, allowing this activity puts the child (and other drivers on public roadways) in great danger.
Does this indicate that a child or even a person with a revoked/suspended/cancelled driver’s license can drive a farm tractor for fun or as a means of personal transportation? Most certainly not. It’s for temporary trips needed for agricultural activity or business.
As for your choice not to follow the tractor to the farm site and having a conversation, I believe that was a wise decision. If you see something you believe is unsafe or illegal, it is generally best to be a good witness, obtain accurate information and report it to the local authorities.
For more information, please go to the University of Minnesota – Extension Service with information from the National Ag Safety Database, including training. http://nasdonline.org/document/1507/d001300/minnesota-regulations-for-hiring-farm-workers-under-the.html
During 2011-2013, 392 traffic crashes took place on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in 14 fatalities and 210 injuries. Of the 14 fatalities, nine were farm vehicle riders; of the 210 injuries, 54 were farm vehicle riders. The biggest factors contributing to farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, speeding and unsafe passing. When approaching farm equipment, motorists should always slow down and use extreme caution.
A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205.  (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).