Ag Safety – Driving Farm Equipment on Valley Roads

For slow moving vehicles, follow these rules – and laws – of the road to help reduce the chance for vehicle collisions.

Harvest will be here before we know it. As you wrap up your transportation plans, we wanted to remind you of some important vehicle safety laws and rules of the road.

The Basics

Whether it’s Hwy 120 or a small county “J” road, before a tractor or piece of farm equipment enters a public thoroughfare, the driver/operator should:

  1. Mark equipment with Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblems. The SMV signs are a requirement for moving “implements of husbandry” on public roadways. Implements of husbandry are defined as those vehicles designed and adapted exclusively for agricultural, horticultural or livestock-raising operations.
  2. Use flashing red lights on the rear of the equipment. Though not required by law, consider also reflective markings and flags. Placed on the outmost edges of the equipment, these are effective, low-cost way to identify agricultural equipment when on the road. Make sure to use fluorescent material visible in both daytime and low-light conditions.
  3. Wear seat belts.
Dual violations

On California roadways, using an SMV emblem and flashing red lights is required by law. This is true regardless of the distance you are traveling, visibility, road conditions, or time of day. Failure to comply with these requirements may subject you to violations from both local law enforcement and, later as a result, from CAL-OSHA.

Standard operating procedures

Owners and Operation Managers should establish standardized procedures for the safe movement of farm equipment on public roads. Communicating these consistently and regularly to drivers and employees will enable everyone within your operation to perform these safety task in a consistent way and help reduce your liability in the event of an accident. Managers should know state farm vehicle requirements to ensure compliance.

Safety training tips

Listed below are a few safety tips to share with your drivers and operators. You may want to follow-up with them also in September and October as quick training reminders to help keep safety top-of-mind throughout the season.

Passing cars

When driving a slow-moving vehicle, there will always be other motorists wanting to pass. You should never wave a driver to pass. Ultimately, it’s the passing driver’s responsibility – not yours. You shouldn’t drive with half of your vehicle on the shoulder, either. As the passing vehicle straddles the center line, your equipment may sideswipe it if you have to swerve to avoid an oncoming mail box, road sign or other obstruction. Always drive with the left side of your vehicle to the centerline, even though the width of your equipment extends onto the shoulder. If another vehicle wants to pass, the driver will have to make that decision based on the law and safe opportunity to do so.

Rear-end collisions

On our straight-line roads, it’s easy for cars traveling at high speeds to be surprised by larger, slow-moving vehicle, especially on the occasional bend of the road or after the crest of a hill. You can help avoid rear-end collisions by monitoring your mirrors for fast-approaching vehicles and making sure your equipment’s warning devices, such as SMV signs, are clearly visible. When moving large equipment on heavily traveled paved roads, you should utilize an escort vehicle, which protects the oversize load and warns motorists of an unusual roadway condition.

Left-turn collisions

The left-turn collision is one of the most common accidents involving farm vehicles, pulling a tool bar, nurse tank or other items. When attempting to make a left turn, equipment operators commonly pull to the right in order to make a wide left turn. Motorists behind the equipment may view the movement of the equipment to the right as permission to pass.

Accidents can be prevented if operators use turn signals or hand or arm signals. Before committing to the turn, operators should pay close attention to oncoming traffic and check all mirrors or look over their shoulder to ensure motorists are not trying to pass.

Rural bridges

Large farm equipment and old bridges have never mixed well. Before crossing a bridge, make sure your vehicle weight will not damage the bridge or cause it to collapse. Allow oncoming traffic to clear the bridge before starting across to reduce the total weight on the bridge and gives you more space to maneuver. Remember that tractors and vehicles with large lugs can easily have these come into contact with the guardrail causing equipment to climb the rail or even tip off the bridge.

You and your fleet managers play a key role in reducing the potential for harmful roadway collisions. Thank you for ensuring your equipment is highly visible to other motorists and making our roadways safer for everyone.

References

Nationwide®, MyNSightOnline, Accessed 6/8/2017.

Author

Aaron Canez is the CAL OSHA-certified Safety Specialist at Basi Insurance Services. After a 40-year career in the US Army, Aaron began work as a safety consultant helping clients maintain their OSHA compliance. Through worksite facility tours, recommendations, and job-specific, on-site training in both English and Spanish, Aaron can help ensure employees are well-versed and safe in all areas of their work.

Aaron has extensive background training as a former EMT and firefighter, as well as in chemistry. All clients are invited to take advantage of these free safety service

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