Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads

  • Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Ext,


Preface, Acknowledgments, Executive Summary
1.0 Introduction
2.0 The Rural/Urban Traffic Interface
3.0 Federal and State Regulations
4.0 Higher Speed Tractors
5.0 Transportation of Workers on Public Roadways with Farm Equipment
6.0 Suggestions for the Future
7.0 References
8.0 List of Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension Members



  • The majority of the farm equipment, including tractors, combines, and other self propelled machinery, are designed with only one seat, which is for the operator.
  • Towed equipment on public roadways, including wagons and trailers, do not have safe seating accommodations for either an operator or other persons on them.
  • Lighting and marking of animal-drawn vehicles on public roadways (e.g. Anabaptist farming communities) may not be adequate to warn motorists of the slow speeds these vehicles are moving, increasing the risk of collisions.
  • There are no clear regulations preventing adults, employees or farm family members from being extra riders on farm equipment on roadways, or being transported on towed equipment on roadways.


Farm tractors and most self-propelled equipment were traditionally manufactured with a seat for only the operator. Nevertheless, carrying another person on the tractor or self-propelled machine, popularly known as an “extra rider”, is a common practice among farmers. Reasons for extra riders on tractors and self-propelled machines includes saving diagnosis, performance and monitoring time, convenience, work assistance, training, information exchange, and child supervision. Common unsafe extra rider locations on tractors are the drawbar, side links of 3-point hitches, rear axle housing, rear wheel fenders, and the operator platform. Most towed farm machines excepting select planters and bean buggies, for example, are not manufactured with any designated safe place for riders though this practice, too, is common for the same reasons as people ride extra on tractors. The tongue of a towed implement, inside or on the bed of trailers or wagons, and on top of crops and produce are common locations for these riders. An example of an extra rider on a self-propelled machine would be a person riding in the bucket of a skid steer loader. Extra rider injury incidents occur while the machine is being operated in fields, around farmsteads, and on public roadways.

In 1993, AGCO Corporation became the first United States tractor manufacturer to provide a passenger seat on some of their larger tractor models sold in the United States (Metcalf, 1993). For example, AGCO Allis tractors between 133 to 191 horsepower and AGCO White tractors between 121 to 192 horsepower came with a second seat in addition to the operator seat as standard equipment. The passenger seat was provided only on tractors with enclosed ROPS cabs and a seat belt for the passenger was provided. Other manufacturers soon followed suit and in 2000, ASAE adopted ANSI/ASAE S574, Instructional Seat for Agricultural Equipment, as a standard. As noted by the standard title, by the time the standard was adopted the preferred term was “instructional seat”. The standard stipulates that the purpose of the instructional seat is for limited use by a trainer or trainee inside a closed cab on tractors and self-propelled agricultural equipment, and that it is not intended or designed for use by children.

There are limited statistics on the number of deaths or injuries associated with the transportation of workers on farm equipment or towed implements on public roadways. The specific concerns with having extra riders on such equipment on public roads are the speed of the equipment and the unprotected nature of the extra rider in the event of a vehicle crash, whether on the prime mover or riding a towed implement such as a trailer.

Most studies examining extra riders on farm equipment have focused on youth. Mason and Earle-Richardson (2002) suggested youth falling from farm tractors and other farm equipment (presumably as extra riders) were a major cause of death for youth on New York farms. Studies of farm operators suggest a willingness to allow extra riders on farm tractors, especially those over the age of 14 years of age (Aherin and Todd, 1989; Ambe et al., 1995), but neither study looked at such behaviors specifically on public roads, or the work-relatedness of such behaviors. Similarly, in a study of farm youth in Kentucky, Browning et al. (2001) found that 54% of the youth between the ages of 10 and 18 years reported being an extra rider on a farm tractor in the last year. Again, there was no specific information if these youth were extra riders while on public roadways, or if such activities were work-related. The Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Protection Act (MSPA) requires farm operators and farm labor contractors to provide a minimum level of protection when transporting farm workers to and from farming operations for work (29 CFR500, 1983). This includes providing a designated seat for each worker in a registered, inspected passenger vehicle with one exception: when transporting farm workers to work areas within ten miles of the farm center, where the transport is primarily (but not exclusively) on farm roads, and where the travel begins and ends on the farm’s property. The MSPA does not permit the transport of farm workers on farm machinery, other than the machine operator. The MSPA does not apply to farm family members.

There are numerous fact sheets developed by a variety of safety specialists within the USDA extension service warning farm operators about the risks of having extra riders on farm equipment (especially farm tractors), or towed implements ( Karsky and Jaussi, 1998; Lehtola and Brown, 2001; Murphy and Steel ,1995; Schwab, 1996).

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More

Reviewed for NASD: 2009-02

This document is from the
North Central Education/Extension Research Activity Committee 197 Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service United States Department of Agriculture

Recommended citation: Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. 2009. Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads. USDA-CSREES, Washington, DC.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More