Safe driving during harvest season


Tony Nye - OSU Extension



Harvest is pretty much in full swing now, and that means we will see more tractors, combines, and grain trucks begin to appear on Ohio roads.

As I followed several pieces of farm equipment several times this week on our roadways, I am reminded that we all need to be patient, be alert and be courteous on the roadways. That means roadway safety becomes a focus for all who share the road with farm machinery.

Vehicle collisions can happen at any time. Many are a result of speed differential between slower-moving farm equipment and passenger vehicles, where the motoring public doesn’t slow down in time before colliding with machinery.

Other collisions are a result of cars and trucks passing farm implements without a clear distance of on-coming traffic.

Following safe road practices, farm operators can do their part to be seen with enhanced visibility. And while SMV operators are not required to move out of the way for passing traffic, they may choose to do so when enough berm is available.

For the average driver (passenger vehicle) there are things one can on their behalf for roadway safety.

Drivers in rural areas should be alert to the possibility of encountering slow moving farm vehicles and be prepared to slow or stop. A little patience is needed this season, as farmers move equipment and grain from the fields to the market.

Try to avoid those roads where farmers are on the move, and limit tailgating or swerving behind the large equipment where you can’t be seen.

Additional tips for sharing the roads with farm machinery are listed below.

Dee Jepsen, State Leader, OSU Extension Agricultural Safety & Health Program, shares some important steps farmers can consider for enhanced safety on our roadways this fall:

Before traveling on public roads

• Lock brake pedals.

• Adjust mirrors for good vision.

• Make sure that all warning flashers, lights, and SMV emblems are in proper operating condition, clean, and easily visible. If they are covered with field dust, wipe them off before leaving the field.

• Check tire inflation pressures. Inflate the tires to the maximum recommended pressure for long distance travel.

When traveling on public roads

• Watch for potholes or obstacles that could tip your vehicle or your load.

• Listen for cars and stay alert. Often vehicles will rapidly approach from the rear at 3 to 4 times the speed of the tractor.

• Keep a constant lookout for pedestrians, animals, mailboxes, steep ditch embankments, and other roadway obstacles.

• Slow down for sharp curves or when going down a hill.

• Consider using an escort vehicle to follow behind.

• Be cognizant of high traffic times, usually mornings and late afternoons. While it is impossible to avoid operating on the roads during these times, it may be possible to limit road transportation during these high flow times.

Safety signs and lighting

SMV Sign – With the mounted point up, place the sign on the vehicle 2-6 feet above the ground. Place the perpendicular plane to the direction of travel (+/-) 10 degrees. Place the sign as near to rear center as possible.

Other ASABE recommendations include:

• Two headlights.

• At least one tail lamp, mounted on the left side facing the rear of the tractor.

• At least two amber warning lights, visible from front and rear, mounted at the same level at least 42 inches above ground level.

• At least two red reflectors, visible from the rear and mounted on either side.

• Amber warning extremity lights, visible from front and rear, mounted over dual- or triple-wheeled vehicles.

• Speed Identification Symbol (SIS) on high-speed tractors and equipment.

When sharing the road with farm equipment

• Farm machinery has a legal right to use public roads just as other motor vehicles.

• Farm machinery can unexpectedly turn onto a public road from a field or driveway. It is important for everyone’s safety to have patience and share the road.

• Farm machinery travels slower than normal traffic, often at speeds of 25 mph or less. Automobile drivers must quickly identify farm equipment and slow down immediately to avoid rear end crashes.

• Farm machinery operators may not be able to see you because the large equipment or a load can block part of their rearward view. If you can’t see the driver, the driver can’t see you.

• Slow moving farm machinery traveling less than 25 mph should display a slow moving vehicle emblem on the back of the equipment. Look for this sign and adjust your speed accordingly.

• Machinery that is half on the road and half on the shoulder may suddenly move completely onto the road.

• Extra-wide farm machinery may take up more than one lane to avoid hitting obstacles such as mailboxes and road signs.

Before passing farm machinery

• Check to be sure the machinery is not turning left. Look for left turn lights or hand signals. If the machinery slows and pulls toward the right side of the road, the operator is likely preparing to make a wide left turn. Likewise, sometimes to make a right turn with wide equipment, the driver must fade to the left.

• Determine if the road is wide enough for you and the machinery to safely share.

• Look for roadside obstacles such as mailboxes, bridges, or road signs that may cause the machinery to move to the center of the road.

• Be sure there is adequate distance for you to safely pass.

Safe travels this harvest season!

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

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Tony Nye

OSU Extension