Harvest season means more farm implements will be sharing the road with other drivers.
This includes oversized combines, semi-trucks, dump trucks, tractors, wagons, etc., that will be used to transport crops from the field to the elevators or from one field to another. Read the tips below to ensure the safety of all drivers during harvest.
Tips for Drivers:
- Keep a lookout for farm machinery during harvest time. Slow down anytime you are going around curves or up hills during harvest season. Quickly approaching a piece of farm machinery increases your likelihood of getting into an accident or getting run off the road. Give yourself plenty of space by slowing down and being prepared. Also, be aware that farm machinery can enter a public road from a field or driveway, so keep your eyes alert.
- Farmers might need to cross over the center line. They do this to avoid objects or to make wide turns. This does not mean they are crossing over for you to pass on the right side. The drivers have large blind spots and most likely cannot see approaching vehicles, so it is your responsibility to slow down.
- Farmers most likely do not see you. It is important to remember that if you do not see the driver, then the driver cannot see you. The bulky equipment and the sizable load can easily block part of the farmer’s view, thus making it very difficult to see vehicles around them. When in doubt, assume the driver does not see you.
- Farm machinery drives slowly. In most cases, tractors and combines will drive 25 miles per hour or less. When you are approaching an SMV (slow moving vehicle), begin to slow down immediately. Give yourself plenty of time to reach the slower speed. Also, familiarize yourself with what an SMV emblem looks like so you can recognize it quickly.
- Have patience. Farmers will try to hug the right line to let you pass, but only when it is safe to do so.
Tips on Passing Farm Machinery:
- Make sure equipment is not preparing to turn. The farmer might need to fade into the other lane to safely make a wide turn. Do not assume they are moving over to let you pass on the right side.
- Is the road wide enough for your vehicle and the farm equipment? Rural roadway lanes range anywhere from 9 to 11 feet wide. Most combine harvesters are over 13 feet wide. Therefore, it is important to be extra careful when attempting to pass this large piece of machinery.
- Do not pass if equipment veers to the left. Sometimes a farmer will veer the equipment to the left to miss an object on the right like a mailbox, sign, or vehicles. Again, fading to the left does not mean the farmer wants you to pass on the right.
- Have plenty of time. Ensure there is plenty of time to pass and that no oncoming traffic is approaching. When in doubt, do not pass.
- Only pass where it is legal. Do not pass if there is a solid yellow center line. Furthermore, do not pass near an intersection, railroad tracks, tunnels, or bridges. These areas can be particularly dangerous.
Tips for Farmers & Farm Equipment Operators:
- Know your equipment. The farm implements used during harvest time are often extremely heavy and large. Thus, it is harder to slow down, stop, or even accelerate quickly when operating a piece of farm equipment. Give yourself plenty of room between your equipment and other vehicles. Always start slowing down sooner!
- Give yourself adequate time and distance for making wide turns. Ensure your surroundings are safe and that no vehicles are approaching or attempting to pass you from behind.
- Get a buddy. Have pilot vehicles ahead and behind oversized equipment, with flashers active, whenever possible.
- SMV emblem. Ensure all farm implements have the proper SMV emblem. Most states require it for any vehicle going under 30 mph. The SMV emblem is used as a warning to other vehicles on the road that you are traveling at a reduced speed.
- Try to move equipment during daylight hours whenever possible. Proper lighting is essential. Ensure your equipment has the appropriate lighting, headlights, and flashing amber lights. Make sure your flashers are on when traveling on a public road. Lastly, use your headlights at least 30 minutes prior to sunset through 30 minutes after sunrise. Always have headlights on when poor visibility (rain, fog, etc.) is occurring.
Just remember, farmers have the same right to use the roadway as other motorists. Waiting a few minutes to safely pass or for the farmer to pull over will not impact your drive substantially, and you will get to your destination unharmed. Did you know that getting behind slow moving farm equipment for two miles is the equivalent to waiting for two stop lights in the city? You have the time to wait to ensure the safety of yourself and the farmer so you both arrive to your destinations unharmed.