10 Road Safety Tips for Farm Equipment
The spring season means an increase in farm activity, and transporting farm equipment from one field to the next will once again be a necessity for many in the business of agriculture. No matter how experienced you are with your equipment, it’s important to always be vigilant about implementing safe driving practices on the road. Help keep yourself and fellow drivers safe by following these ten road safety tips for farm equipment.
Prepare for the road.
Safety on the road begins before your wheels even touch the highway. Make sure to complete the following before hitting the road.
- Train your equipment operators on proper machinery operation.
- Perform a full inspection of your tractor and trailed equipment before heading out. Check your brakes, lights, signals, steering, etc. to make sure everything is working properly and that your SMV sign is fully visible.
- Prepare your equipment for transport by raising hydraulic wings and locking them in place, relocating hitch points, removing headers, and doing whatever is necessary to make your equipment narrower on the road.
- If towing equipment, make sure to secure it by using safety chains and tow bars.
One of the best ways to stay safe on the road is to be seen. Outfit your equipment with appropriate lighting and know when and how to use it. For instance, using flashing amber lights will help increase motorist awareness, and turn off your rear spotlights since these are often mistaken for headlights.
The American Society of Agricultural Engineers recommends that:
- Two white headlights are installed on the front of your equipment, as far apart as possible, and at the same level.
- Mount two flashing amber lights at least 42 inches high in both the front and rear of the farm vehicle.
- Place at least one red taillight on the rear left. If you use two red lights, mount the other one as far right as possible/
- Mount two red reflectors that are visible from the rear. If towed or mounted equipment obscures the rear lights, mount two flashing amber lights on the equipment as far apart as possible.
- If you’re using older machines, modify them to conform to state lighting laws.
Know when to hit the road.
If you’re taking your farm equipment on the road, always be mindful of the time of day. Your best bet is to avoid roadways during high traffic periods, like rush hour. And, keep your eye on the forecast to dodge getting caught in risky weather. Driving at night, even with the right lighting, should be avoided if possible. Plan ahead and know when to get the day started and when to call it quits so you can get on the road at ideal times.
Let them know you’re slow.
Your tractor or farm equipment is most likely going 25 MPH or slower when you’re on the road — while other cars are traveling much faster. A visible, clean, unfaded and properly mounted Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign is required on your equipment to caution other drivers to slow down.
Use pilot vehicles.
If you’re driving or hauling wide equipment, such as a combine, consider using vehicles to lead the way and/or follow behind you. They should be equipped with flashing lights and signs that warn of an oversized load. Check with your local authorities for other requirements for pilot vehicles.
Give them room to pass.
A farm vehicle is required to follow the rules of the road in the same way a regular driver must follow the rules of the road — including not obstructing traffic. In other words, you’re technically not allowed to interfere with the normal flow of traffic. So if there is a line of vehicles behind you, you’ll need to pull over (when it’s safe to do so) and let them pass.
Lock your brake pedals.
For road travel, lock your brake pedals together to ensure adequate braking on both wheels — sudden braking on one wheel could cause you to skid and lose control, turn into oncoming traffic or run into the ditch.
Take control on hills.
If you’re going down a steep hill, use the same gear that you use to go up the hill. You’ll be able to maintain better control of the machine and the load. If hauling a large trailer or equipment, equip them with separate brakes for extra protection, since your tractor or truck may not have the power to stop a free-coasting trailer.
Get to know the road.
Whether it’s a road you travel often or if it’s new terrain, be aware of the road conditions. Survey the route before hitting the road in your farm equipment and look for things like potholes, ditches, sharp curves — anything that could potentially cause a problem.
One seat, one rider.
If there is one seat with one seat belt, that means there should only be one person on the equipment. An extra rider can easily be thrown off and injured by the equipment or oncoming traffic.
Reprinted with permission from: