Snagged Power Lines — Does Responsibility Extend to Manufacturers?

Larger farm equipment has its benefits on the field, but there’s also additional risk in getting it there, particularly when driving new machinery under old power lines.

Just ask Gerrid Gust, a farmer from Davidson, Saskatchewan. During seeding this past spring, an air-drill from Gust’s farm snagged a power line over a main road in the area.

“It’s a power line that we have gone under hundreds, maybe thousands of times in the past 30 years farming in the area,” he says. “We got the drill two years ago, so we had even been under this power line with the drill a few times.”

Gust is now in a dispute with SaskPower over who is to blame for the downed line. As it stands right now, fault in most cases falls to the farmer, but Gust says he believes farm equipment manufacturers should play a larger role in preventing incidents with power lines.

“Equipment manufacturers and SaskPower have to talk. It can’t be something that each individual farmer does on their own, because we don’t have the resources, knowledge and skill-set to do it,” he says. “If all power lines have to be 21 feet or higher in the province, then every equipment manufacturer should know that. Or 22 or 19, whatever the number is, there has to be a uniform standard.”

The rules regarding the movement of oversized equipment differ between jurisdictions and power companies, with permits required in certain situations. Weather can further complicate the issue, as power lines will sag in warmer temperatures.

Related: Safety Concerns With Equipment? Tell the Manufacturer

Simply lowering machinery by unfolding it isn’t the solution, as it creates risks for other drivers using the road, notes Gust. Power companies will lift lines for farm equipment if they receive the request far enough in advance (often coinciding with the permit process); SaskPower asks for at least five days notice, which Gust says is not practical for a farming operation.

“It just doesnt make sense,” he says. “It seems the power companies and equipment manufacturers are not taking into account that farmers are going to get killed.”

Listen to Gust’s conversation with Kelvin Heppner, explaining how he’d like to see manufacturers, power companies and farmers work together on preventing incidents involving new equipment and power lines:

Can’t see the audio? Listen here.

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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5 Comments

Diogenes the Cynic

Oh. My. God.

If I hit something in my fields I should be at fault. If I hit something in public, its the fault of the manufacturer for making equipment which was too tall. It’s not MY responsibility to know how high my equipment is, everyone else needs to be at blame because I couldn’t be bothered to check the height… Or the gap. So also it’s SaskPower’s fault for making lines that are too close to the ground. They should have people, on call, to run out at my whim to make sure I don’t have to check any heights or be aware of restrictions.

This is everybody’s fault, but mine.

Reply
J

Ultimately it is farmers responsibility, But manufacturers especially sask, based ones, that are building wider units than the mainline manufactuers. Are building units far higher than the 16.5 ft that is currently allowed in alberta. (Look it up on Ab transports website)

Yet units are sold that ate in excess of that.

Reply
Gerrid Gust

To the first commenter. My point is that power lines are different heights. There’s no way of knowing if a line is 19′ or 21′. Would you bet your life on it?

Reply
Jim Hale

The only way for any of this to work is for there to be a maintained standard height. I feel SaskPower is passing the buck in this particular case.
Manufacturers can’t build to a standard if it’s not maintained. As long as the manufacturer is indicating to the end user that specific models do not fit under the standard.
This effect more than air drills. Augers and grain conveyors, as well as some if the hopper extensions on combines are getting higher all the time.

I

Reply
Diogenes the Cynic

Hell no, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

…I’d measure it. I’m weird that way.

Reply

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