By Rejean Pommainville, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
As we near the tail end of this harvest season, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) wants to ensure that our farming families have the resources and tools they need to stay safe on increasingly busy country roads. Traffic is heavy throughout the province, especially near urban and suburban areas, as rapid development has led to urban sprawl.
Statistically, the average person is generations removed from the farm. Therefore, it is not common for the majority of motorists to have the knowledge or awareness of how to interact safely when sharing the road with heavy, large agricultural equipment. As a community that cares for each other’s well-being, farmers must be proactive by strictly following road safety rules to accomplish the goal of getting crops off and ensuring everyone returns home safely.
Harvest is an extremely busy time where the stakes and external stressors are high. Remember to take the time to put safety first on roadways, on the farm and for your family. When drivers are in an impatient rush behind you, be alert for them to pass you at unexpected times. Additionally, watch carefully as you turn onto public roadways and make left-hand turns across traffic.
When driving farm equipment on the highway, be mindful that the best practice is for your machine to be on the paved portion of the road, not the shoulder. Although it is not against the law to drive your equipment on the shoulder, it’s important to be aware of the weight and stability of your load. Shoulders are not built to support heavy vehicles and could result in a dangerous outcome.
Remember to always stay alert and focused. Stay off your smartphone; the rules for distracted driving also apply when you are driving farm equipment. Operating your equipment is a large responsibility that should not be taken lightly.
For farm equipment, be sure there is a visible slow-moving vehicle sign on all pieces of machinery that travels roadways. This includes tractors, combines, self-propelled vehicles, sprayers and any implement being towed. Furthermore, keep your maximum speed to 40km/h and take the time to check twice and signal well in advance when turning on and off busy roadways for drivers who may be anxious to race past.
Working well into the night and early morning is often unavoidable during harvest. To guarantee that you are visible to drivers, keep your lights on for safety. Lights must be on farm equipment from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise. However, the best practice to ensure your safety is to keep them on around the clock. Farm equipment on public roads must have two white headlights and one red taillight. All towed implements must have at least one red taillight.
Road safety is important for everyone. With farmers being only 2% of the population, the rules, protocols, safety measures and regulations may seem overwhelming. However, there is an onus on the general public as well to keep farm equipment and roads safe. Consumer-based road safety campaigns continue to be developed, which contain farm safety knowledge for the average motorist.
Recently, the Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture partnered with the Ontario Provincial Police’s Central Region to remind drivers to slow down, have patience and share the road with farm equipment. Lindsay’s Volunteer Fire Department also took to social media to promote road safety during harvest, advising their followers “to take a deep breath, slow down and realize these farmers are out there to harvest the crops that turn into food on your table.”
I am especially pleased with the Russell Federation of Agriculture’s “Mud on the Road” pilot project in partnership with the Township of Russell. The project addresses the danger of mud on the roads caused by agricultural activities. Farmers that opt-in are provided with two road signs that indicate to motorists the possibility of mud on the roads and to proceed with caution. After the fieldwork is completed, farmers are still responsible for clearing the road of mud per the municipality’s bylaw.
This year, OFA undertook a social media campaign spanning from spring to late fall using the hashtag #farmsafe as a means to share facts, reminders and resources with our membership. Additionally, the OFA developed its own road safety video directed at consumers to educate them on slow-moving vehicle signs, equipment blind spots, etc. It is always encouraging to see members sharing these resources to increase awareness and accountability within the community.
Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. It is always worth taking the extra few minutes to double-check signs, lighting and to refresh your farming team of the rules of the road. For more road safety tips, visit ofa.on.ca/roadsafety. We are wishing you all a safe and bountiful harvest.
For more information, contact:
Ontario Federation of Agriculture