Get Planting Equipment Road Ready

Both farmers and motorists should be patient and alert this spring as more implements of husbandry (IOH) begin sharing the road during planting season. The DoT reports that in the last decade, Wisconsin saw more than 30 deaths and nearly 900 injuries in accidents involving ag equipment.

Lt. Bill Berger with the Wisconsin State Patrol says passing remains the No. 1 issue.

IOH Passing Rules of the Road

  • It’s illegal to pass anyone, even farm equipment, in a no-passing zone.
  • Farmers should not pull over to let vehicles pass unless they can completely move onto the shoulder.
  • Farmers should not wave drivers to pass them – it creates confusion.
  • Any motorist, including IOH operators, cannot impede traffic. If you can completely move onto the shoulder to let people pass in a passing zone, do so.

Berger, who also farms near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says a farmer’s left-hand turn is the most dangerous maneuver if motorists are not attentive. Farm equipment will likely have two flashing amber lights when on the roadway. When a farmer signals to turn, the light will continue to flash in the direction the farmer is turning. The other light will go solid.

Safe Driving Practices with Turn Signals

  • Farmers without turn signals should use hand signals to indicate their intention to turn.
  • Extended mirrors are not required but are encouraged to see better behind the IOH.
  • Motorists behind an IOH should be alert for any driveway or field entrance that a tractor may be turning into.
  • Motorists behind an IOH should also be alert for mailboxes or guardrails that a tractor may shift left to avoid running into.

Lighting Requirements

Before you get busy, Berger says NOW is the time to check lights.

  • Tractors: two white headlights and at least one red tail light.
  • Towed implements: two red tail lights or reflectors on the rear. If more than 4-feet wide to the left of the hitch, the implement needs an amber reflector on the left side facing oncoming traffic.
  • Three-vehicle trains: one red light or reflector on the left and ride side of every vehicle.
  • Animal-drawn vehicles: one white lamp on the front and two red lamps on the rear.
  • Wide IOHs: escort vehicle with hazard lights activated (ahead of IOH on two-lane; behind IOH on more than two lanes).
  • Berger reminds farmers that a white light shining to the back of the tractor – even if to illuminate the implement better – is illegal. It creates confusion for drivers who may think it’s an oncoming vehicle. Bright lights may also blind drivers.

Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) Marking Requirements

Now is also the time to get proper signage. A slow-moving vehicle or SMV emblem is required for any type of IOH that usually travels at speeds less than 25 mph.

  • Must be displayed and visible at all times.
  • Must be bright and clean.
  • Must be free of damage.

As Wisconsin’s No. 1 farm insurer, it’s important to us to educate on the risks farmers face so we can help prevent and protect them. Talk with your local Rural Mutual agent how we can protect your farm.