3 Road Safety Priorities for Farm Machinery Operators

3 Road Safety Priorities for Farm Machinery Operators

Public roads are already a dangerous environment, resulting in thousands of crashes and related deaths and injuries each year in the U.S. As a farmer/operator, you may rely on public roadways to travel from field to field/farmstead and to transport goods to surrounding communities.

Moving farm equipment on public roads can be a dangerous activity. Farm operators need to drive defensively and remain alert every second as other drivers adapt and share the road with the equipment.

Avoid Common Operator Errors

  • Driving too fast, particularly when pulling a heavy load or turning.
  • Driving partially over the centerline.
  • Driving partially on the shoulder, and partially on the main road surface.

A leading cause of farm machinery collisions on public roads is the difference in speed between automobiles and farm equipment. Motorists approach the moving equipment too quickly to identify the hazard and react appropriately.

1. Visibility is Key

The more visible your equipment is both day and night, the better. If the equipment is being operated on public roads at night or under conditions of reduced visibility, it must be equipped with lights.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) sets forth requirements for lighting and marking on agricultural equipment to improve daytime and nighttime visibility. Below you will find standardized lighting and marking requirements for agricultural equipment across the United States:

Lighting Requirements

For Self-Propelled Equipment
  • Two head lamps, two red tail lamps and at least two flashing amber warning lights must be mounted at the same height and spaced laterally as wide as possible.
  • At least two flashing amber warning lights visible from both front and rear must be used when the machine is at least 3.7 meters wide.
  • Turn signals must be provided.
  • One slow moving vehicle (SMV) identification emblem must be installed on the machine.
For Non-Self-Propelled Equipment
  • Equipment that obscures the SMV emblem of the propelling machine must be equipped with an additional visible SMV emblem.
  • Equipment that extends past the sides of the propelling machine must have strips of reflective material visible from the front and back depending on the length of projection.
  • Equipment that obscures tail lamps, flashing warning lamps or turn signals, must be fitted with appropriate lighting to take place of those obscured lamps or signals.

2. Check over all equipment before heading out:

  • Ensure any safety-hitch pins are securely fastened.
  • Ensure your safety chain extends from the tractor to the frame of the towed equipment.
  • Check all tires (on both tractor and towed equipment) for air pressure, cuts and bumps.
  • Double-check that flares and fire extinguishers are packed in case of an emergency.
  • Confirm that all lights are operating correctly.
  • Ensure that the SMV sign is clean, unfaded and properly mounted.
  • Check towed equipment, verifying your load is balanced and properly secured. Ensure the towed load is within the tractor’s towing capacity to handle it safely. Heavy wagons should be equipped with independent brakes.

3. Take extra precautions on the road

  • Avoid busy roadways whenever possible, even if it adds to travel time. Be cognizant of busy times of day as well, such as morning and evening commutes.
  • Travel at a speed that allows you to confidently control the vehicle at all times.
  • Slow down when taking round curves and turning.
  • Stay alert for hazards such as soft shoulders, narrow bridges, loose gravel, bumps, potholes and deep ruts.
  • When cars are lined up behind you, and a suitable shoulder is available, pull over to let the traffic pass.


You’re out there to get a job done, but not at the risk of your own safety or the safety of others. Take a look at our On the Farm blog for more farming safety tips.

Protect your workers on equipment and off, with a Workers' Compensation policy from Rockford Mutual:

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Amy Casey
Social Media & Communications Specialist
Amy joined Rockford Mutual in January of 2017 with an Associates Degree in Marketing. Amy has a great understanding of insurance in general as she has obtained her Associate in General Insurance designation.