By Michael Sweeney, Vice President of Bickle Farm Solutions
One of the most necessary evils we have in the agricultural world is moving our equipment on the road. It is hazardous almost every time we put tires on pavement. But it must be done. Jenny Cox, our business development representative, spoke with Shannon Utter, a Sergeant with the Ohio State Highway Patrol to come up with some things to check and a few clarifications that we all might need reminded of before this big spring push.
When asked about escorting farm equipment, Sergeant Utter said that “Ohio does not require an escort for farm equipment on the road, however putting someone up front if available certainly helps warn oncoming traffic.”
It is not always easy coming up with an extra person to run a pickup out in front, but I think most reading this article have probably had a close call or two that could have been avoided if someone was ahead warning oncoming traffic. He also reminded us about slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs.
“Equipment that travels less than 25 MPH is required to display a SMV sign only,” Utter said. “But also, equipment that can go faster than that must display the SMV and a sign displaying the maximum speed that the equipment can travel.”
There are a few obvious things that should be checked before hitting the road as well. Things that are commonly overlooked could be the difference between having an accident or not. Or worse yet, being at fault or not. Probably my biggest pet peeve is when I see machinery moving with malfunctioning lights. These need to be checked daily. I also cringe when I come up on a unit that has lights on it, but nowhere near the widest point of the machine. Most generally, newer equipment comes from the factory with all the required lighting and reflectors. But there is older equipment still out there that may not be up to par here.
Slow moving vehicle signs are another item commonly overlooked on a daily walkaround. The fact that it is there is sometimes not enough. According to Ohio State University Extension, “SMV signs are to be mounted between 2 and 6 feet high, pointed up, and perpendicular to the direction of travel.” They also say that “in Ohio, approved SMV signs have a front label identifying the manufacturer and documenting that the sign meets the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ standards for durability and longevity.” There are traffic studies that show that two out of three accidents involving slow moving vehicles are rear end collisions and that 90% of these happen in daylight. Faded SMV signs, or ones hanging on the back of your implement with a piece of baling wire probably won’t meet the standards of an approved SMV sign.
The bottom line is that road time with equipment is a necessity for most. A major reason that incidents happen on public roads is the speed difference between automobiles and farm equipment. Motorists approach slow moving farm equipment so quickly that there are only a few seconds to react appropriately. A heightened sense of awareness and patience during this busy time applies to everyone on the roads. At the end of the day, farmers and motorists want to return home to their families. Safety must be a top priority for everyone sharing the road.