Fall brings an increase in farm equipment traveling roadways to harvest crops, haul grain, and transport silage from fields to the farm. This is also a time when tractors and manure spreaders are used to apply nutrients to harvested fields. During these operations, it is not uncommon to find mud or manure spilled on roadways.
An Iowa State University Extension survey found that transportation issues accounted for 28% of manure spills. A similar study in Wisconsin determined that 30% of manure spills were attributed to transportation issues. While these happen unintentionally, they do pose potential hazards to the environment and motoring public.
An Ohio traffic law (https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-4511.74) addresses “placing injurious materials” on roadways. The law states in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 4511.74 that: “No person shall place or knowingly drop upon any part of a highway, lane, road, street, or alley any tacks, bottles, wire, glass, nails, or other articles which may damage or injure any person, vehicle, streetcar, trackless trolley, or animal traveling along or upon such highway, except such substances that may be placed upon the roadway by proper authority for the repair or construction thereof.” This provision has been applied to cases involving mud, manure, and even grass clippings left on roads, with enforcement by local law officials. A violation is a first-degree misdemeanor that can lead to no more than $1,000 in fines as well as jail time.
Another section of Ohio law, ORC 5589.10 (https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-5589.10), also provides criminal penalties and states that “No person shall dig up, remove, excavate, or place any earth or mud upon any portion of any public highway or build a fence upon the same without authority to do so.” A violation of this section can lead to a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge with a maximum fine of $250 and jail time.
In addition, mud or manure on the roadway may result in property damage, injury, or death to people or damage to vehicles on the road. Harmed parties may bring a negligence claim and seek compensation for their personal and property damage. There was an Ohio case several years ago involving wet manure on the road that was determined to be the cause of an accident, and the farm operator was held liable under a negligence claim brought by the harmed party. Unfortunately, a person suffered physical injuries and the operator suffered a financial loss—all due to the failure to properly manage the manure on the roadway.
The best advice to avoid problems is to practice good manure and equipment management. Do not overfill tankers or spreaders, ensure that hoses are properly attached, and inspect equipment for leakages. Maintain field access points to minimize tracking mud onto the roadway. Be aware of the roads you travel and whether your operations are leaving mud or manure on the roadways. If you are, you have a responsibility to remove it to prevent environmental damage and an accident. Where necessary, place safety cones or other warnings around the area until it’s cleared. If you rely on employees to haul manure or move equipment on roadways, train your employees to follow these practices. And if you receive a call from a local official or law enforcement or a complaint from a resident, act quickly to meet your responsibilities for keeping mud and manure off the roadway.
OSU Extension Resources
Ohio State University Extension has several resources if you are interested in more information related to this topic. We encourage you to visit:
- OSU Extension Ag and Resource Law Program: Roadway & Equipment Law https://farmoffice.osu.edu/our-library/roadway-and-equipment-law
- OSU Extension Ag Safety Program https://agsafety.osu.edu/
Manure Spills: What You Need to Know and Environmental Consequences, North Dakota State University Extension, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/environment-natural-resources/manure-spills-what-you-need-to-know-and-environmental-consequences
Manure Spill Prevention & Management: https://extension.umn.edu/manure-management/manure-spill-prevention
Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules, Section 4511.74: https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-4511.74