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7 do’s and don’ts of operating farm implements on roadways

Progressive Dairy Editor Emma Ohirko Published on 13 June 2022

For over 20 years, Sergeant James Hunter has familiarised himself with the risks and behaviours associated with sharing the road with and operating farm implements.

Pulling from this knowledge and firsthand experience, Hunter, a member of Grey Bruce County’s Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) force, shared his safety tips at this year’s Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week to encourage the safe operation of farm implements on roadways.

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While operators of farm implements cannot control the behaviour of other drivers, practicing some basic safety strategies will help mitigate risk for all road users.

There are many steps farm equipment operators can take to safely operate farm equipment on roadways. These do’s include:

1. Signaling all turns. Before you start a turn, as the operator of the equipment, it is your responsibility to make sure the turn is safe. Not all tractors and farm vehicles are equipped with signal lights, so it may be necessary to use hand signals to indicate the intent and direction of your turn. Understanding how to properly hand signal is important and encouraged.

2. Properly securing your cargo load. Although it is not required in all jurisdictions, it is considered a best practice to ensure any load transported by a farm vehicle is stable and secured.

“If you are putting cargo on a tractor that is moving 40 kilometres an hour and [subject to] sudden braking that could shift the cargo, you are liable to be charged with an unsafe load, if you don’t have [your cargo] tied down. [In Ontario], you do not have to, but you are still responsible if it does move or shift,” Hunter advised.

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3. Ensuring brakes, tires and self-illumination adhere to local standards. The brakes on your farm equipment must permit the safe stop and hold of all combined vehicles and implements. In vehicles with air brakes, confirm the operator is in possession of the legislated endorsements to do so. Check that tire wear indicators are still visible, and do not operate a vehicle with any abnormal bumps or knots present on the tires.

Like cars, farm implements must be equipped with lights when traveling at night. “You still have to be visible for 150 metres in both directions. Lights must be visible 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise, and when you’re not visible due to atmospheric conditions,” Hunter explained. However, beware of the use of any bright lights that may shine backward as your tractor travels forward; this is prohibited in some provinces.

4. Using two means of attachment. All motor vehicles operating on a highway require the use of two means of attachment. Two attachments ensure that if one attachment fails, the vehicle will not detach. This pertains to farm tractors and motor vehicles towing implements, wagons, trailers and devices, but excludes farm tractors towing something directly across a highway and fifth-wheel attachments.

Equally as important as knowing what should be done to operate farm implements safely on roadways is understanding what practices should be avoided at all costs. Some of these don’ts when driving farm equipment on the road include:

5. Driving on the shoulder. At all times, your vehicle should be traveling on the paved portion of the road. Veering into the shoulder is dangerous, as shoulders are often not capable of carrying extreme weights and may collapse under your farm equipment. Additionally, once you give up your lane by moving to the shoulder, you must safely retake your lane. This is challenging in a farm vehicle, especially as other road users attempt to pass you.

6. Mislabeling a slow-moving vehicle. Slow-moving vehicle signs must only be placed on slow-moving vehicles. This means vehicles traveling no more than 40 km/h (even if the vehicle’s maximum attainable speed is greater than 40 km/h) and does not include flatbed trailers. A slow-moving vehicle sign should be placed in the centre of the rear of the farthest towed vehicle. The signs are required on pickup trucks towing implements of husbandry, like a wagon, traveling below 40 km/h.

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7. Occupying more than half of the road. To avoid charges of careless or dangerous driving, ensure your farm equipment does not occupy more than half of the road. In Ontario, farm tractors are exempt from width restrictions, provided they do not require pilot vehicles. As soon as an oncoming vehicle approaches, you must yield half of the road. end mark

Editor’s note: The rules and regulations of operating farm implements on roadways vary provincially. Please consult your local transportation laws before operating farm equipment on the road.

"Emma
  • Emma Ohirko

  • Editor
  • Progressive Dairy
  • Email Emma Ohirko

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