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


Based on the work presented in this report the committee has developed several suggestions to help guide future research, standards setting, policy and education/outreach among federal, state and local levels of government and production agriculture organizations. All of these entities share a responsibility to help motor vehicles and agricultural machinery and equipment mix safely on public roads.

Research is needed to:

  1. Develop criteria to better describe characteristics of crashes between motor vehicles and agricultural equipment using standard reporting terminology. This would include developing model definitions, methods, and data collection instruments. Examples of standard data elements would include:
    1. Road and visibility conditions
    2. Ages of victims
    3. Vehicle and agricultural equipment features (including type and size of equipment, whether machine or animal-drawn, and compliance with current lighting and marking, braking, and other related standards)
    4. Environmental conditions (e.g., time of day, rain, icy)
    5. Driving actions of motorists and equipment operators
    6. Whether victim(s) was operator or rider
    7. Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  2. Assess the understandability, effectiveness, and best use practices of lighting and marking of agricultural equipment on public roadways. This should include both urban and rural motorists and would focus on topics such as:
    1. Slow moving vehicle (SMV) and Speed Indicator Symbol (SIS) emblems
    2. Animal-drawn buggies, wagons and implements, including culturally acceptable lighting and marking systems for Anabaptist populations
  3. Improve engineered systems for higher speed tractors, self-propelled machines and towed equipment. This would include such topics as:
    1. braking systems
    2. suspension systems
    3. steering controls
    4. hitching/attachment mechanisms
    5. proximity sensors to motor vehicles
    6. tires
    7. ROPS
  4. Examine the existence and consistency of farm equipment roadway safety information in driver’s education programs across the United States.
  5. Expand behavioral studies on allowing extra riders on farm equipment to include adults, and such factors as extra riders on public roads for work-related purposes.
  6. Determine the effects of graduated licensing for youth to operate agricultural equipment on public roads, including higher speed tractors and self-propelled machines.
  7. Examine impacts and implications of county and state land use policies regarding operation of agricultural equipment on public roadways. This would include topics such as:
    1. Risks of crashes with motor vehicles
    2. Exclusions and exemptions from road traffic regulations and restrictions
    3. Transportation of agricultural hazardous materials on rural public roads
    4. Economic issues and costs associated with heavy agricultural loads on rural public road

Engineering design standards should:

  1. Better connected to research findings.
  2. Have better representation during their development by researchers and end-users.
  3. Be used to incorporate automatic and passive protection for drivers and riders of agricultural equipment during public road use.
  4. Be continually reviewed for the possibility of adoption of new technologies into design standards and practices.

Safety education programs are need to:

  1. Educate both the public and farmers on:
    1. Best practices for operating agricultural equipment on public roads.
    2. Approaching slow moving vehicles on public roads, including the purpose and use of the SMV and SIS emblems.
    3. The effects of exclusions and exemptions from road traffic regulations and restrictions.
  2. Work with local and state law enforcement agencies to increase awareness of county and state traffic laws related to farm equipment among law enforcement officers.
  3. Encourage Amish buggy manufacturers to utilize marking and lighting systems and components that meet current ASABE, SAE, and DOT standards.

Policy is needed to:

  1. Promote the purpose and use of the SMV and SIS emblems in every state’s driver’s license manual and driver’s education program.
  2. Encourage a more comprehensive Uniform Vehicle Code to be developed and adopted nationally and by states. This new code should better address modern types and uses of agricultural equipment on public roads. Topics that should be addressed include:
    1. Registration of farm equipment for use on public roads
    2. Qualifications and training for operating agricultural equipment on public roads
    3. Extra riders on farm equipment, including on tractors, self-propelled machines and towed equipment d. Animal-drawn buggies, wagons and equipment
  3. Provide for a consistent source of funding for research into hazards, risks and best safety practices for operating agricultural equipment on public roads.
  4. Encourage land-use policies by state and local governments to better manage the interaction of farming and non-farming uses of public roadways in their jurisdiction.
  5. Encourage stricter enforcement by local and state police of SMV emblem misuse.

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