According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) program, 13 per cent of farm-related fatalities across Canada are traffic related, and most involved tractors. During the busy fall harvest season, farmers often travel long distances between fields, and this requires transporting equipment on public roads throughout rural Alberta. Farm equipment is oversized and slow compared to other vehicles using the roads, and when certain procedures are not met, this can lead to collisions and other incidents.
Make it safe
Poor maintenance of equipment such as brakes or tires can lead to loss of control of the vehicle. 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 No. 1 cause of farm-related fatalities in Canada is machinery rollovers. To minimize the risk of severe injury or death to the operator, all tractors need rollover protective structures. But operators should always wear a seatbelt as rollover protective structures are ineffective in a rollover without this restraining device.
Make it visible
Equipment must be clearly visible and have proper lighting and signage. Use reflective tape and reflectors in the event that large equipment is required to travel in dim lighting conditions. In Canada, reflective material should be red and orange strips. You can purchase reflective tape in kits or by the foot at local farm or hardware stores.
Dust-covered signage and lights make farm machinery less visible to motorists and dust-covered machinery causes poor visibility for the operator, who may not see oncoming traffic.
Regulated requirements for lighting and signage on public roadways include the use of a slow-moving vehicle sign on equipment travelling less than 40 kilometres per hour. The sign must be properly mounted, clean and not faded.
Plan the route
Routes should be planned to ensure 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. Use a pilot vehicle as a guide for large machinery and to warn motorists of oncoming large equipment.
It is highly recommended that equipment be moved during high-visibility daylight hours and during periods of light traffic.
If your route takes you across a rural railway crossing, be aware some crossings have poor visibility. Always stop and make sure the way is clear before crossing.
The people factor
Anyone moving equipment, especially on public roads, should be trained in how to use the equipment. Inexperienced operators can make mistakes when they are not used to the speed and manoeuvrability limitations of farm equipment. It is advisable to read the operator’s manual for each machine and observe any precautions indicated for road travel. Some tractors can 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 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. 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.
Never use a cellphone 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.