Road safety is important as harvest season approaches

Defensive driving and proper lighting of equipment are ways that farmers can contribute to safe roads

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Combines, grain buggies, gravity wagons and many more tractors will be on the road soon as they travel to harvest wheat, corn and soybeans.

That’s when road safety becomes a concern. It’s important that drivers of large equipment and other motorized vehicles on the road be courteous.

Derek Wilbee, enforcement auditor, investigator with the Ontario ministry of transportation, says the most important thing is safety; safety of the farmer, the operator of the trucks, trailers and the motorized vehicles on the road.

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Why it matters: Many drivers don’t understand how to handle situations when faced with farm equipment on the road, but farmers can do their part to help them out by making sure equipment is properly lit and signed and by driving cautiously.

Although some rules of the road do not apply to the farming community, careless driving, dangerous driving, impaired driving and signalling regulations do apply to farmers.

“Our fine structure can go from $250 to $20,000 and/or six months of jail time. Improper use of slow-moving vehicle signs is our lowest (and most common) infraction at $200,” says Wilbee.

Slow-moving vehicle signs are required for all pieces of equipment, tractors or self-propelled implements of husbandry (SPIH), such as combines or forage harvesters, which are travelling less than 40 km/hr.

The sign must be clearly visible from a distance no less than 500 feet (152 metres) and should be replaced when damaged or faded. A sign is not required on vehicles or combines that are travelling faster than 40 km/hr or when directly crossing the road.

“(Improper use of) slow-moving signs are most of the problems we experience — it is for vehicles that can only travel up to 40 km/hr. We have certainly seen an increase in compliance across Ontario. People are finally starting to use them more appropriately,” says Wilbee.

Ken Nixon, a farmer from the London area, says that the slow-moving sign is not a blanket immunity from the Highway Traffic Act.

Knowing what’s behind you is one thing Nixon says is usually overlooked but is but is critical when travelling down the road.

“One important thing, we are required, but I think a lot of people ignore, is that you must be able to see behind you. Whether it’s mirrors or a camera, simply driving down the road and having no idea what’s behind you is illegal,” says Nixon.

Tractor trailers parked on the side of the road are permitted but need to be labelled correctly to warn oncoming traffic.

“Ensure they have flares and the four-ways are on so approaching traffic can be aware of the situation and react appropriately,” says Wilbee.

The trucks need to be as far off the driveable part of the road as possible to avoid impeding traffic, which can quickly become a dangerous situation. Failure to do so can result in charges of illegal parking.

As well, having good pins and safety chains are imperative. Any load should be checked before taking it on the road.

Farm equipment and SPIH are allowed to use most roadways throughout Ontario, but as traffic approaches, the road needs to be shared. Travel on 400 series highways and roads with medians are prohibited.

“While we do not have restrictions for widths, we have to give up half the road. You can occupy the centre line until you meet or are overtaken by traffic,” says Nixon.

Nixon farms close to an urban area and lives on a main road, so he deals with commuters on a daily basis.

“Even though we may think it is common sense that everyone understands what a slow-moving vehicle sign is, or that a large implement is not moving at 80 km/hr, we have to be very defensive drivers, we can’t take that for granted,” says Nixon.

“During the busy time of the year, we just like everyone to share the road equally, be aware and be courteous. We know farmers are extremely busy during harvest time. It’s important to take that extra care regardless of which vehicle they are using,” says Wilbee.

About the author


Jennifer Glenney

Jennifer lives on a farm in Cayuga, Ontario and has a lot of experience in the many aspects of agriculture.



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