Sharing the road during harvest

Farm equipment harvesting wheat.

Wheat harvest means heavy equipment is out on the road

Jul 06, 2020

With harvest well underway in many parts of the country farm machinery operators and other drivers should take extra care to prevent potential accidents on rural roadways. 

“It is very important for farmers and motorists alike to be vigilant when traveling on rural roads. As a driver, make sure you are aware of what’s ahead of you and behind you,” says Kevin Gutknecht, former director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “Crashes between automobiles and farm equipment are nearly always severe. So please watch out. Your diligence could save a life.”

Tractors and combines are large and heavy, making it difficult for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. Farm vehicles make wide turns and the large-scale equipment often crosses the center line, creating large blind spots and making it hard for operators to see approaching vehicles. To ensure safety, motorists should always slow down and use caution when approaching farm equipment. And, farmers need to move cautiously across roadways, always ensuring to check and double check blind spots.

Driving defensively is important for all drivers, but is imperative for farm machinery operators. They should display the slow moving vehicle (SMV) emblem when driving under 30 mph, use proper vehicle lighting, and mount amber flashing lights in both the front and rear. In addition, take the extra time to check hitches, use safety chains and follow all state laws.

As we prepare to share the road during harvest time, motorists should wait for a safe place to pass farm vehicles, keep headlights on at all times and avoid tailgating. Watch for debris dropped by trucks hauling grain and other crops. It’s safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming traffic or off the road.

Being vigilant when driving on rural roads will help protect everyone. So, here’s to a safe and successful harvest.