The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5145

March 7, 1977


Exemption of implements of husbandry from size, weight and load restrictions.



The word 'incidentally' used within the context of the exemption of 'implements of husbandry incidentally moved upon a highway' from the size, weight and load restrictions of the Michigan Vehicle Code pertains to the movement of the vehicle on a road subsidiary to an agricultural operation.

The width limitation of farm implements and machinery contained in Sec. 717(f) of the Michigan Vehicle Code applies only to a state trunk line highway and does not apply to a county road.

Honorable Michael J. Griffin

State Representative

50th District

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested my opinion as to whether the movement of overwidth farm implements and machinery over a county road on a regular basis for considerable distances requires the obtention of a special permit from a Board of County Road Commissioners.

Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, Sec. 716; MCLA 257.716; MSA 9.2416, states:

'(a) It is a misdemeanor for any person to drive or move or for the owner to cause or permit to be driven or moved on any highway any vehicle or vehicles of a size or weight exceeding the limitations stated in this chapter or otherwise in violation of this chapter, and the maximum size and weight herein specified shall be lawful throughout this state, and local authorities shall have no power or authority to alter said limitations except as express authority may be granted in this chapter.

'(b) The provisions of this chapter governing size, weight, and load shall not apply to fire apparatus, or to implements of husbandry incidentally moved upon a highway, or to a vehicle operated under the terms of a special permit issued as herein provided.' (Emphasis added)

Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, supra, Sec. 21, defines 'implement of husbandry' to mean:

"Implement of husbandry' means every vehicle which is designed for agricultural purposes and used exclusively in agricultural operations. The transportation of seeds, fertilizers or sprays between a place of storage or supply and farms in a trailer which materials will be used to plant, fertilize or spray is an agricultural operation.'

Assuming that the vehicles involved are implements of husbandry as defined in Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 21, supra, the central issue is the meaning of the word 'incidentally' found within the exemption of Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 716(b), supra. (1) I have found no Michigan authority interpreting its meaning as used by the legislature in the Michigan Vehicle Code.

In the cases of Davis v Pine Mt Lumbering Co, 77 Cal Rptr 825; 273 CA2d 218 (1969) and State v Griswold, 225 Iowa 237; 280 NW 489 (1938), the supreme courts of California and Iowa, respectively, construed the word 'incidentally' as it was used in sections of their motor vehicle codes similar to the Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 716(b). The Court in Davis, 77 Cal Rptr, supra, at 828; 273 CA2d, supra, at 222 held that a forklift truck was 'incidentally operated' on the highway within the meaning of a statutory exemption where its travel on the highway was '. . . something necessary . . . [or] . . . something incidental to the main purpose . . .', which was loading and unloading lumber. The court construed the word 'incidentally' here to mean '. . . appertaining to or depending upon another which is termed the principal.' Davis, 77 Cal Rptr, supra, at 828; 273 CA2d, supra, at 222.

The Iowa Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in construing the word 'incidentally' vis-a-vis a defendant who regularly transported a feed grinder several miles over local highways. The Court stated:

'With respect to the second characteristic of special mobile equipments, i.e., that they are incidentally operated or moved over the highways, appellant discusses the word 'incidentally', pointing out that among the definitions of the adjective 'incidental' as found in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, is the following: 'Happening as a chance or undersigned feature of something else.' From the definition appellant extracts the thought that defendant's apparatus was never operated on the highways incidentally because the driving never happened as a chance. . . . It appears to us, however, rather improbable that the legislature had in mind the thought of chance or of something undesigned or unintended, when they used the word 'incidentally' in connection with such a subject matter as driving on the highway. It seems more reasonable to look upon this word 'incidentally' as characterizing the operation of a vehicle when the operating is something 'naturally happening or appertaining, esp. as a subordinate or subsidiary feature', these meanings being found in the same authority among the definitions of the noun and the adjective 'incident'. In saying 'incidentally operated' the legislature evidently had reference to such operation over the highways as naturally appertains to the use of the special mobile equipment.' 225 Iowa at 240; 280 NW at 491.

It is my opinion that the rationale of the decision in Davis v Pine Mt Lumber Co, supra, and State v Griswold, supra, is applicable to the language of Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 716(b), supra. Moreover, it is noted that Sec. 716(b), supra, is a penal statute and, as such, must be strictly construed in favor of the person regulated thereunder. People v Brown Bros Equipment Co, 3 Mich App 618; 143 NW2d 155 (1966). See also 60 CJS, Motor Vehicles, Sec. 20, Sec. 190.

Therefore, the Sec. 716(b) exemption for implements of husbandry is contingent upon the use to which the vehicle is being put. If its movement on the county road is subsidiary to an agricultural operation, it need not comply with the width limitations of the Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 717(b); MCLA 257.717(b); MSA 9.2417(b).

You have also asked whether the width limitation of farm implements and machinery expressed in Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 717(f); MCLA 257.717(f); MSA 9.2417(f), applies to travel on county roads. The language appears as follows:

'Notwithstanding any other provision of this act, no vehicle or farm tractor, farm implement or machinery shall extend beyond the center line of any state trunk line highway except when legally authorized by law. If the width of the farm implement or machinery would make it impossible to stay away from the center line, a permit shall be obtained under section 725.' MCLA 257.717(f); MSA 9.2417(f).

State trunk lines are under the jurisdiction and control of the Michigan State Highway Commission pursuant to Const 1963, art 5, Sec. 28, and 1951 PA 51, Sec. 1, et seq; MCLA 247.651, et seq; MSA 9.1097, et seq, and the various Boards of County Road Commissioners have jurisdiction over county roads. See 1909 PA 283, ch IV, Sec. 1, et seq; MCLA 224.1, et seq; MSA 9.101, et seq. These different jurisdictional road authorities are also recognized by the Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 724; MCLA 257.724; MSA 9.2425, which confers discretionary powers upon each of them to issue special permits with respect to highways and roads under their respective jurisdictions. Thus, it is clear that Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 717(f), supra, does not apply to county roads. As a penal statute it must be strictly construed. People v Brown Bros Equipment Co, supra.

You have also asked whether the Jackson County Road Commission can issue an annual blanket permit allowing agricultural equipment incidentally moved on county roads at the owner's convenience or discretion, without specifying the roads they will be moving on or the exact dates the moves will be made.

Having determined that Michigan Vehicle Code, Sec. 717(f) does not apply to county roads, it is unnecessary to address this final question.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

(1) This term also appears in Michigan Vehicle Code, supra, Sec. 216(3) which requires implements of husbandry to be registered.