According to the Injury Prevention Centre, 23% of farm machine-related fatalities in Alberta are traffic-related, and most involve tractors.
‘During the busy fall season, farmers often travel long distances between fields,’ explains Kenda Lubeck, farm safety awareness coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF).
‘This requires transporting equipment on roads throughout rural Alberta. Farm equipment is oversized and slow, compared to other vehicles using the roads. When certain procedures are not met, the risk of collisions and other incidents increases.’
Equipment maintenance is a contributing factor to the safety of transporting farm equipment. ‘Poor maintenance of equipment such as brakes or tires can lead to loss of control of the vehicle,’ she says.
Lubeck adds to check all tires for air pressure, cuts, bumps and tread wear.
‘Always lock brake pedals together for highway travel as sudden braking at high speeds on only one wheel could put the tractor into a dangerous skid. Equip heavy wagons with their own independent brakes.’
The number one cause of farm-related fatalities in Canada is machinery roll overs.
‘To minimize the risk of severe injury or death to the operator, all tractors need roll-over protective structures (ROPS),’ she notes. ‘In addition, operators should always wear a seatbelt as ROPS are ineffective in a roll over without this restraining device.
Farmers should make sure their equipment is clearly visible, and it follows all regulated requirements for lighting and signage to avoid collisions between motorists and farm equipment.
‘This will ensure approaching traffic has time to react to a slow-moving vehicle. Use reflectors and reflective tape in the event that large equipment is required to travel in dim lighting conditions. You can purchase tape in kits or by the foot at local farm or hardware stores.’
She says that it is important to note that regulated requirements for lighting and signage on public roadways include the use of a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign.
‘The SMV sign must be properly mounted, clean and not faded. It must be positioned on the rear of the tractor or towed implement and clearly visible. SMV signs must be used on equipment travelling less than 40 km per hour.’
Plan the route
Farmers should check their route prior to starting out with farm equipment to be sure equipment will fit on all roads and bridges and that there are no low-hanging power lines along the route.
‘If equipment is too wide to fit safely into one lane, approaching traffic could clip the machinery or become blocked while crossing a bridge,’ says Lubeck. ‘Equipment that is too tall could come in contact with a power line. Use a pilot vehicle as a guide for large machinery and to warn motorists of oncoming large equipment.’
For the safety of all motorists, she highly recommends that farmers move equipment during high-visibility daylight hours and during periods of light traffic.
‘Avoid busy roads whenever possible, even if travel time will be longer. If your route takes you across a rural railway crossing, be aware that some crossings have poor visibility. Always stop and make sure the way is clear before crossing.’
The people factor
Lubeck adds that anyone moving equipment, especially on public roads, should be trained how to use the equipment.
‘Inexperienced operators can make mistakes when they are not familiar with the speed and maneuverability limitations of farm equipment. It is advisable to read the operator’s manual for each machine and observe any precautions indicated for road travel’
She adds that some tractors free-wheel in higher gears, which can be very dangerous when travelling down a hill. Use lower gear ranges when climbing or descending hills.
‘Never take extra riders on equipment. Extra riders on farm equipment are a distraction to the operator and they are at risk of falling off the machinery and being run-over. Each person in the machine should be secured with a seatbelt.’
Safe driving tips
Farm machinery operators can make road travel safer for themselves and others by observing safety precautions. Travel at a speed that will allow the operator to maintain full control at all times.
‘Slow down when making turns or rounding curves,’ she adds. ‘If needed, pull over when there is a suitable area to allow backed-up traffic to pass. Make sure the area is sufficiently wide and solid enough to handle the equipment.’
Once on a public road, obey all traffic laws and signs.
‘Always wear your seatbelt and use signal lights when turning. Never use a cell phone while transporting equipment. The distracted driving law - along with all other rules of the road - is in full effect while driving farm machinery on public roads and highways.’
Find more information in the AF publication Safe Transportation of Farm Equipment in Alberta.
To connect with the Farm Safety Program: