Machinery Chatter
Russ Quinn DTN Staff Reporter

Thursday 09/27/12

Road Safety and Farm Machinery

The gritty 1980s police drama "Hill Street Blues" always showed the squad sergeant telling his officers, "Let's be careful out there!" as their daily pre-shift meeting would end. They obviously needed to be careful -- I can remember several officers wounded/killed in the line of duty on this show.

I think of that classic TV line as farmers move farm equipment on public roads while they continue with corn and soybean harvest. Every year there are accidents on public roads involving farm equipment in which people are injured and killed.

The University of Florida (UF) Extension issued a bulletin titled "Road Safety for Tractors and Farm Machinery," which looks at some collisions and ways to avoid these accidents as farmers move equipment from field to field.

Nearly half of all incidents between motorists and farm equipment involved one of two situations -- the left-turn collision or the rear-end collision, according to the report.

The left-turn collision occurs as motorists don't realize that farm equipment is set to turn left and drivers attempt to pass the machinery as it turns. Farmers sometimes need to make a wide left turn by swinging to the right before making the turn, which sometimes confuses motorists.

Operating farm equipment on the road like I have over the years, the most nervous I get is turning left pulling an implement I cannot see around or through. I will sometimes go right and then straight across an intersection just to avoid this left turn. We have several close calls turning left with cars deciding that is when they were going to try to pass.

The other incident, the rear-end collision, happens when the motorist misjudges a slow-moving vehicle.

"If the driver of a car that is traveling at 50 miles per hour spots a tractor 400 feet ahead on the road and the tractor is moving at 20 miles per hour, the motorist has less than 10 seconds to avoid a rear-end collision," the report stated.

"In those ten seconds, the motorist must recognize that a dangerous situation exists, determine the speed at which the tractor is moving, decide what action to take and apply the brakes hard enough and long enough to avoid a collision".

Years ago, we had a good family friend who was on the road with a tractor and a pull-type sprayer. A motorist did not see him and ran into the back of the sprayer sending herbicide all over the road surface.

Luckily our friend and the motorist were not injured but the sprayer was completely destroyed and the tractor's transmission was damaged as well. I remember our friend saying the motorist was really lucky that he was pulling a sprayer that day and not a tillage tool.

Other collisions the UF report included were the sideswipe collision in which a motorist tries to pass farm machinery only not be able to make it safely and the head-on collision.

The University of Florida Extension bulletin also had several tips to make traveling on public roads safer. Most of the points were pretty obvious like obey all traffic laws, be familiar with how to operate the farm equipment, have an escort vehicle, have safety lights, etc.

The report also touched on when to travel on roads. While I know sometimes you have to travel on the road regardless of time and conditions, these points were kind of interesting to me.

"Try to keep traveling on public roads to when traffic is at minimum and visibility is good. Avoid moving tractor and other farm equipment on public roads (during) sunrise and sunset, when visibility is 500 feet or less or when rain makes roads hazardous".

Drawing on my own farm equipment on roads experiences, I would add just do not move any equipment after it is dark. I know the equipment has many lights which are bright, but doing things like moving equipment on roads after dark just seems like you are inviting more problems than it is worth.

The entire UF bulletin can be found at….

As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues fame would say:

"Hey, let's be careful out there!"


Posted at 11:04AM CDT 09/27/12 by Russ Quinn
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