Farm Equipment Tips for Driving on Public Roads
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 road safety tips for farm equipment.
Prepare Your Farm Equipment 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. Operators must be licensed drivers and must obey the laws when driving farm machinery on public roads. This includes stopping at stop signs, yielding at intersections, obeying speed limits and wearing seatbelts.
- Perform a full inspection of your tractor and trailed equipment before heading out. Check fluids, brakes, hoses, tires, clean your lights, steering, signals and windshields, etc. to make sure everything is working properly and that your SMV symbol is not faded or damaged and is fully visible.
- Install and maintain a 20 lb “ABC” portable fire extinguisher on trucks, tractors, combines and other equipment. Know where the fire extinguisher is located and ensure it’s properly rated (ABC), UL Listed and that it has been inspected monthly.
- 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.
Get to Know the Road You’ll Be Driving On
Whether it’s a road you travel often or it’s new terrain, be aware of the road conditions. Here are some things to be mindful of when surveying your route:
- Slow down on gravel roads, hills, curves and turns. Watch for things like potholes, irrigation ditches, sharp curves or soft shoulder aprons — anything that could potentially cause a problem.
- Always be mindful of the time of day. Your best bet is to avoid roadways during high traffic periods, like rush hour.
- Keep your eye on the forecast to dodge getting caught in risky weather.
- Driving at night or in low light conditions, even with the right lighting, should be avoided if possible. Use flashers when on roadways.
- Before entering the roadway, stop and look in both directions. Intersections always present an increased risk of an accident.
- Use extra caution at railroad crossings. Look, Listen and Live. Prepare to stop. Turn off fans, radio and roll down the windows. Before you pull onto the railroad crossing, make sure there is no train and that you have enough room and time to cross over tracks. It can be very difficult to judge the speed of an oncoming train.
- Know the width and height of your mobile farm equipment. Managing the space around your large farm equipment can be especially important when crossing over bridges and entering an approach into a farm field where powerlines are present. Minimize equipment width and haul equipment when practical. Slow down when turning off of roadways.
- Watch out for passing vehicles when making left turns, especially into fields. Install wide mirrors so you can see traffic that’s following you.
- 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. Be aware of drowsiness from long work hours.
Increase Farm Equipment Visibility
One of the best ways to stay safe and avoid farm equipment accidents 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. Turning off your rear spotlights can help, too, since these are often mistaken for headlights.
The American Society of Agricultural Engineers recommends that you:
- Have two white headlights 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.
- Modify older machines to conform to state lighting laws.
Install a Slow Moving Vehicle Sign
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. From thirty minutes after sunset to thirty minutes before sunrise, slow-moving vehicles must have lights and reflectors.
Use a Pilot Car Escort for Farm Equipment on the Road
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.
How to Drive Farm Equipment on Hills
If you’re going down a steep hill, use the same gear that you use to go up the hill and use lower gear ranges when going up or down hills. 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. On that note, never let a tractor “freewheel” when traveling down a hill.
Safety Practices for Driving Farm Equipment on the Road
No matter how many years you’ve been behind the wheel or the confidence you possess, there are always safety precautions to take when you hit the road with your large farm equipment. Make sure to follow these guidelines to better protect yourself and other drivers on the road:
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 brake pedals when on public roadways. 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.
Keep it slow. Go at a speed that gives you full control at all times. And when turning or rounding curves, make sure to slow your vehicle down even more — especially when carrying heavy load.
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.
Keep these tips top of mind for safe traveling on the roads this spring. Take a look at our tips for safety on the farm to ensure you’re putting safe practices into place during your day to day routine. And, don’t forget to proactively protect your equipment with the right farm insurance — connect with an agent today to make sure you’re properly covered.
Related Topics: Farm Safety