Jon Orr chooses his clients more carefully since, in 2003, a muddy road caused three accidents — and he was charged with a crime.

“I've been very selective,” says Orr, of Orrson Custom Farming, Apple Creek, OH. “I try to work with people I think I can trust.”

Trust was a problem on the corn silage chopping job that ended badly that year. Orr says the dairyman insisted that he chop a 60-acre field when it was wet, creating a “terrible muddy situation.”

The client wouldn't let Orr's truck drivers use a driveway, so they drove directly from the muddy field onto a new asphalt road. The trucks left mud for about a quarter mile, and the mud mixed with oil residue from the road.

“The first 200-300 yards were really bad,” Orr recalls.

The dairyman had reluctantly agreed to remove the mud, but he used “a tractor with a rubber-tired scraper, and that's not the item of choice,” says Orr.

The best choice is a scraping blade followed by a rotary broom. A skid-loader bucket can do the job satisfactorily, too.

“But you're never going to remove all the mud; that's impossible,” says Orr.

He and his crew chopped the field on a Monday afternoon. An employee of the dairy said he scraped the road frequently, and it looked fine when he left that night. But then it rained Wednesday morning, creating a “slippery mess,” according to Orr. Two cars slid into the ditch, and a pickup landed on its top on the road.

Orr and the dairyman were charged with violating an Ohio law that prohibits placing mud or earth on a road. The charges eventually were dropped when a judge ruled, in part, that the law was too vague because it didn't specify the amount of mud or earth needed to make the offense criminal.

Orr was held partly liable for damage to the vehicles and the cost of one hospital visit. “This ended up costing my insurance company a decent chunk of change,” he says.

Be sure to specify whether you or the client must keep roads clean, Orr advises harvesters. He believes it should be the client's responsibility, because mud problems usually are caused by long-term land management. Soil in the 2003 problem field had been compacted by heavy manure trucks, he says. Other clients have wet fields that should be tiled.

“We have a verbal agreement that, if we get mud on the road, they need to clean it and keep cleaning it,” he says. “If it's cleaned right, it will be fine.”