Ranchers often rely on each other spring brandings are a community affair, and in the fall friends help one another haul their calf crop to auction. But this year, that neighbourly tradition turned into an expensive one for Pincher Creek rancher Bill Homans.
A friend and neighbour couldn t haul all his cattle in one load, so he asked if I could haul some for him, Homans said in an interview. So sure, I mean, we all haul back and forth all the time. When I sold my calves this fall there was me and three other trailers hauling and when those guys sell, I will haul for them too.
Homans was helping his neighbour Bob Westrop deliver calves to Fort MacLeod Auction on Oct. 24, the third time this year he had helped a neighbour do the job.
I think I had 13 of his steers in my trailer. It was my truck and trailer and he was also there with his truck and trailer hauling. The Department of Transportation officer pulled me over upon arriving at the auction market.
Homans said he produced his licence, manifest and registration, and the officer examined the truck and trailer. Everything passed inspection, all the while Homans had no idea why he had been pulled over.
After about 10 minutes, he told me to go ahead and unload, which I did, said Homans, adding the brand inspector had no issue with the manifest.
After being instructed to wait in his truck while the officer completed some paperwork, Homans finally figured out what the problem was there had been some complaints about farmers hauling cattle for each other.
So I asked him right out, point blank& Did I just draw the short straw or was I singled out? He said, We ve had a complaint about you in particular. So I was singled out, but by who, I have no idea, Homans said.
The ticket Homans received was for the unlawful use of farm plates under the Traffic Safety Act and the fine associated with the offence was $354. As much as the ticket stung, it could have been worse. The officer was also checking to see whether he was using purple fuel.
There must be a screen or something and he couldn t get his hose far enough down to get a sample. Afterwards he said, We ll give you a break because I can t get a sample, so I wasn t charged for the marked fuel, Homans said.
Protesting to the minister
Homans hasn t paid the ticket yet. He has an appointment scheduled with his MLA Evan Berger, who also serves as the minister of agriculture. Homans hopes the law may change.
As far as me hauling cattle to the auction market, that was my third trip this fall for somebody else. I thought everyone did it all the time. I am just doing it for the fellas that haul for me, Homans said. It s wrong, the law is wrong. We have to look at trying to modify this somehow.
Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Trent Bancarz says there are solid reasons why the practice of hauling someone else s cattle is prohibited.
One thing is so you don t have commercial haulers using farm plates, because if you have farm plates on a vehicle, you don t have the same kind of safety and equipment requirements and inspection requirements and everything else that a commercial carrier would have, Bancarz said.
He said it would be difficult to create a method for authorities to be able to tell the difference between a legitimate rancher helping a neighbour from a commercial cattle hauler posing as a farmer.
The thing is, how do you determine that? It would be difficult because, how do you tell? Just because a guy says he is a farmer doesn t mean he is one. Basically it s (the law) there to prevent a commercial carrier from using a farm plate and being allowed to use purple gas and all that other stuff.
B.C. employs a similar law to the one used in Alberta, which prevents producers from using farm vehicles for any purpose not related to their own agricultural production. However, had Homans been hauling cattle for a neighbour in Saskatchewan, his story would have had a happier ending. Saskatchewan producers are permitted to transport agricultural products that are not their own, even for profit, provided the weight of the vehicle does not exceed 16,400 kg.
It swrong,thelawis wrong.Wehavetolook attryingtomodifythis somehow.