Don’t Be A Roadway Hazard!
Professor and Agricultural Safety
and Health Program Leader
Department of Agricultural
and Biological Engineering
Crashes involving farm equipment on roadways is a significant problem in Illinois. Since 1998 there has been a yearly average of 270 roadway crashes involving farm equipment. Farmers have the right to move their equipment on public roadways except for interstate highways. The driving public needs to be prepared to encounter farm equipment on roadways and be prepared to slow down quickly and pass farm equipment safely. Farm machinery operators need to do all they can to reduce their risk of experiencing a collision.
Many factors contribute to accidents with farm machinery on roadways, but history has proven that most are linked by a few specific ones. Most machinery is transported at relatively slow speeds often below 25 mph. Other motorists, who may be traveling at fairly high speeds, may miscalculate the distance needed to slow down while approaching a slow moving piece of machinery. Although infrastructure improvements in the last few decades have significantly improved the width and surface quality of rural roads, machinery has also continued to grow in size, and at times equipment can overlap the centerline of a road and create a hazard. As the average farm size has increased significantly in the past 20 years the travel time of farm equipment on roadways has also dramatically increased. Because farm machinery has unique qualities of slower speed and often large size it is imperative that operators drive defensively and the equipment is highly visible to other drivers.
The following are mandatory Illinois lighting and marking regulations for tractors and other self-propelled implements of husbandry or farm equipment:
- Lighting is required from 30 min. before sunset (dusk) to 30 min. after sunrise (dawn).
- Each vehicle should have two white lamps set as wide as possible on the front of the vehicle, visible from at least 1000 feet away.
- Two red lamps should be placed facing rearward of the equipment, visible from at least 1000 feet behind it.
- Each vehicle also requires at least one flashing amber lamp facing the rear mounted as high as possible and visible from 500 ft.
- A SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle) emblem must be displayed in a visible spot more than 4 ft. high on the rear of the tractor. The emblem must minimally meet American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers standard S276.5. This emblem is 10 times brighter than older emblems and can be seen at 1,000 feet.
There are also regulations for towed wagons and machinery, and other implements:
- If the two rear red lamps of the tractor are obscured by the towed implement, then the rearmost towed implement must be equipped with two red lamps.
- Of the implements or wagons being towed, only the rearmost requires a flashing amber lamp.
- A SMV emblem must be displayed on the rear of the rearmost implement being towed.
This stop will review minimum lighting and marking requirements but will also illustrate what research has shown can be done to significantly enhance visibility of farm equipment beyond state laws and regulations. It has been found that the following new technology in retro-reflective markings can dramatically improve recognition of farm equipment width and improve side and front visibility for other motorist:
- Two 2”x 9”strips of red retroflective material on the rear of implement, on outside corners. Directly to the inside of these markings two 2”x 9” strips of fluorescence bright orange-red material.
- 2”x 9” yellow retroflective strips mounted on as far right and left of the sides and front of the machine as practical.