Farmers across the country are returning to their fields to harvest their crops this fall season. As essential workers, farmers have provided food to Canadians throughout the pandemic. During the fall months, this production ramps up in preparation for the harsh Canadian winters.
Drivers can help make the harvest season safer and more efficient by being mindful of farm equipment as it travels on the roads this fall.
“We see a significant increase in farm equipment on the road between late spring and early fall… during [the] planting and harvesting seasons,” stated Carolyn Van Den Heuvel, director of outreach and member relations at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.
This can pose unique challenges to motorists who are unfamiliar with seeing farm equipment on the road.
Farm equipment travels at slower speeds than other motorists on the road. They typically travel less than 40 km/h. Farm equipment may also be towing additional pieces of equipment behind them. This may further decrease the speed and maneuverability of the equipment.
“Farm equipment is often wider than one lane on the road. Farm equipment is [also] often longer than you think it is when you are coming up from behind,” notes Van Den Heuvel.
Van Den Heuvel highlighted research by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, which has identified the following three most common collision types as it relates to farm equipment on the roadway:
1. Left turn collisions: when farm equipment is making a left turn and the motorist behind the vehicle decides to pass.
2. Rear end collisions: motorists misjudge the speed at which they are approaching the farm equipment
3. Passing collisions: motorists pass farm equipment and are not aware of how long the equipment is or are passing in the wrong area [of the road].
The Alberta Farm Safety Program offered an example in their Safe Transportation of Farm Equipment in Alberta guide. A vehicle travelling at 80 km/h has only 100 metres and a reaction time of 6.5 seconds before it reaches a piece of farm equipment which is travelling at 25 km/h.
Van Den Heuvel offers the following safety tips for sharing the road with farm equipment:
• Slow down.
• Keep 15 metres (50 feet) behind farm equipment at all times.
• Avoid the farm equipment’s ”blind-spot”. Stay far enough back that the tractor operator can see you.
• Know that farm equipment may take up more than one lane and be longer than you expect.
• Only pass when it is legal and safe to do so.
• Pay attention to hand signals and the turn signals (signal lights) of the farm equipment and its operator.
• Be conscious that farm equipment may need to make wide turns when entering or exiting the roadway.
• Be patient.
“Safety is a two-way street. We are all responsible for ensuring the safety of ourselves and others on the road. Make sure you are visible, aware and courteous on the road,” she advised.