Drivers urged to watch for farm equipment on highways

Fall is one of the busiest times for farmers to move harvesting equipment on public roads.

tractorThis is a fact Virginia Farm Bureau Federation members, like Will Roberts of Pittsylvania County, would like to drive home to those unfamiliar with farm machinery.

Roberts, who often has to move equipment on public roadways, is head of the VFBF Young Farmers Safety Subcommittee. He said that farm equipment can take up multiple lanes on rural roads, and drivers need to use caution.

“It can be an ordeal, and quite scary when I have to travel with my equipment on the road,” Roberts said. “I often encounter people who are impatient and try to get around me, or they drive very close to the equipment and it can be very dangerous.”

A slow-moving vehicle like a combine or a dual-wheel tractor is typically wider than one lane of a two-lane road. Farmers often have to take that equipment out on public roads to move it from field to field.

State law requires tractors and other equipment that travels 25 mph or slower to be marked with the triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem when being operated on public roads. Many farmers also use flashing amber lights, reflective decals and escort vehicles to alert approaching drivers.

“I always use an escort vehicle when I can, and if I’m able, I pull off to the side of the road so drivers can go past me,” Roberts said. “I try to have respect for drivers who need to get down the road, but I have a job to do and deserve common courtesy as well.”

The safety subcommittee wants drivers to watch for farm equipment on the roads, recognize SMV emblems, and slow down if they encounter vehicles that display the emblem.

September is a great time to be aware of farm equipment since Sept. 17-23 is National Farm Safety and Health Week The theme of the week is “Putting Farm Safety Into Practice” with daily themes, including tractor safety; farm health; child and youth health and safety; working in confined spaces; and rural roadway safety.

As part of an outreach effort, the Young Farmers have put together a slow-moving vehicle exhibit at the State Fair of Virginia, which opens Sept. 29. The exhibit was created in partnership with Hoober Inc., a farm equipment dealership in Hanover County.

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