Safer Times: The Good Day's Work Blog

Practice Road Safety with Farm Equipment – Here’s Why!

Posted by Marty Huseman on Sep 26, 2019
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Nationwide, a U.S. farm insurer tallied up three years of agribusiness claims and released their top 10 commercial agribusiness claims in 2017.  The top 10 list accounted for 50,000+ claims. Leading the list was motor vehicle accidents!  Motor vehicles accidents accounted for more than 20,000 claims.  The most frequent accidents were rear end accidents, backing into vehicles and accidental strike of stationary object. 

Nationwide's Top 10 Commercial Agribusiness Claims
    1. Motor Vehicle Accidents
    2. Worker's Compensation for Disability or Death
    3. Misapplication of Chemicals or Drift 
    4. Slip, Trip, or Injury
    5. Food Related Claims

Farmers and their equipment share the road with the motoring public. Both have visions on how the road best serves them.  This blog addresses areas a farm manager can control for safe traveling this fall.

Whitford PPP-117 Combine


Have an Active Plan to Drive Defensively 

Fred Whitford, director of Purdue Pesticide Programs has some practical tips for sharing the road and keeping your operators and equipment safe this fall. Practicing good defensive driving techniques is for all drivers. Do not think “it won’t happen to me/us”.  Nationwide has 3 years of data with over 20,000 claims validating it does happen and more often than you think. 

Know Local Traffic Patterns

Plan your routes ahead of time whenever possible. If possible, avoid routes that have heavy traffic during the morning and evening commutes. Additionally, avoid routes during school bus hours as well.  Whenever possible, avoid putting large equipment on major highways or through towns during peak traffic hours. 

Don’t Add Another Blind Spot

A clean windshield is key to having an unobstructed view. It’s not about “I’ll be fine”, I can see well enough. Equipment has enough blind spots.  Having a dirty windshield limits your view. Have cleaning supplies readily available. Clean windows, mirrors, lights, and flashers of dirt, dew, frost, ice, grease insect and bird splatters and chemicals. Make this good housekeeping a standard practice.

Designate a Spot in the Cab for Everything

Keep the cab clean. Minimize the items in the cab for the essentials. Don’t let the cab be collection site. Designate certain areas in the cab where you can organize and easily reach paperwork. Place lunchboxes and tools in areas where they won’t slide around in the cab to distract you. Clean the cab at the beginning or end of the day. Being sure to discard any drink bottles and cans.

Wear Your Seat Belt

Many farm equipment operators think they are exempt from wearing seat belts. They are not exempt, wearing seat belts is the law when traveling on the road. A seat belt is designed to keep you in your seat. Look around inside the cab of your equipment. If you get rear ended or end up in the ditch, it is inevitable you are going to be bounced around inside the cab. Think about yourself or employees as you don’t want head, neck and back injuries that could last a lifetime or worse. Change the way you think about seat belts, especially when traveling on roadways. You probably have fire insurance on your house but never had a house fire. Seat belts reduce injuries and save lives.

Wait for Vehicles to Pass

Don’t just look for the first opportunity to pull out onto the roadway.  Take a longer view look at approaching traffic in the lane you’re traveling. It is better to wait for a long line of faster moving vehicles to pass than to have them lined up behind you within minutes.

Whitford PPP-117 Mortor Cycle  Whitford PPP-117 Left Turn


Grab the Center Line for Left Hand Turns 

Many collisions between motorists and farm equipment involve left hand turns. As long as there is no oncoming traffic….move your equipment over the center line of the road with your turn signal on. When motorists are traveling behind you for a while, they can start to overlook the hazard flashing lights and grow impatient. This action will help you be noticed before you make your turn and clear to trailing vehicles not to pass. 


Here are additional actions to consider:

  • Make your equipment more noticeable.  Add or replace reflective tape. A 2”x30’ roll of reflective tape is roughly $11-$15.  Particularly, be sure the outside extremities are marked well.
  • Always inspect all lights before pulling out onto our roadways and keep supplies on hand to replace bulbs.
  • Consider replacing bulbs with LED lights. They are much brighter and more noticeable. Consider retrofitting existing equipment with LED light technology.
  • Check the placement and condition of the SMV sign. Placement should be as near the center line as possible, from 3 to 5 feet above the ground with the point up. Replace faded or damaged signs. Slow moving vehicle signs warn approaching drivers to adjust their speed.
  • If equipment being towed or its load obscures the flashing lights on the towing vehicle, the equipment must have flashing lights.  Adding magnetic flashing lights will help the slow moving vehicle to be seen. 
  • Make communication devices such as cell phones off limits during road travel. Never ask employees to use the cell phone while driving. Have them check the phone before hand and after they arrive at their destination. It’s easy to get overly comfortable driving down the road and multitask. 100% of their attention should be on what is happening on the road.  Remember to drive defensively.



Talk to family members and employees about how your farm equipment should share the road with the public. Communicate clearly the processes and the behaviors you expect anytime they are on the road. Keep in mind people monitor what you do as well as what you say.  Most everything suggested above are things you can do to minimize the risk and costs you very little. 

Keeping your people safe is top priority.  Having a plan to drive defensively does require effort on the part of the farm equipment operator.  An accident however will cost you directly and indirectly. Losing an experienced employee is very impactful on the operation.  Experienced employees are hard to find and replace, especially during the harvest season.

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Topics: tractors, harvest, combines, driving

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