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One Road: Safety is a Two‑Way Street

Posted by stephanie rogers on June 23, 2020 in News

It’s that time of year again! A time where you see an increase in slow-moving farm equipment on the road, as they move from field to field, planting and harvesting their crops.  

While farm equipment is typically on the road throughout the year, they are on the roads more frequently in the spring and fall.  Just like other vehicles and road users, farm equipment has a right to be on the road, as they travel to various locations .  We encourage drivers to keep in mind that farmers are out there doing a job, producing safe and quality food for our tables.  Farmers don’t enjoy slowing down traffic either, we typically are not on the road for very long, moving from one field to the next, so we ask for your patience as incidents can happen very quickly.

Most common incidents include: left turn collisions, rear end collisions and passing collisions.  Left turn collisions occur when a farm vehicle is about to make a left turn and the motorist behind the tractor decides to pass.  Rear end collisions happen when a motorist misjudges the speed when approaching a slow-moving vehicle. This gives the motorist only a few seconds to react and slow down.   Passing collisions result when a motorist attempts to pass a farm vehicle and may be unaware that the equipment is extra wide or long until they are in the passing lane. The number of motorists who would rather risk their own lives, and potentially ours, rather than just slowing down – often passing when its unsafe, the lane is unclear and the distance is underestimated – is shocking.

Farm equipment operators and motorists have a common goal, getting from Point A to Point B safely.  Drivers make the choice of how they respond to the hazards on the road.  Responsible drivers will make the choice to protect themselves and the other motorists.

A responsible Farm Equipment Operator with the correct license class will:

•          Read, understand, and follow the Motor Vehicles Act.

•          Avoid high traffic times, busy roads, bad weather, and night driving.

•          Lock tractor brakes together when traveling on the road.

•          Use amber warning light on the top of farm vehicles wider than 2.6 m or 8 ft 6 inches.

•          Must use slow-moving vehicle (SMV) signs on the back of farm tractors, trailers towed by tractors, and vehicles and cannot go faster than 40km/hr (25mph).

•          Use fluorescent flags or flashing lights on sides of farm equipment.

•          Check for passing vehicles when making left turns.

•          Plan ahead!  Use hand or turn signals when turning. Give ample warning of an upcoming turn.

•          Slow down for sharp curves and hills.

•          Choose a route to avoid overhead powerlines.

•          Use a pilot vehicle at front of farm vehicle that is wider than 4.3 meters or 14 feet.

•          Travel on the road, never the shoulder.

•          Identify hazards such as soft shoulders, narrow bridges, loose gravel, bumps, potholes & deep ruts.

•          Allow traffic to pass when conditions are safe.

•          Conduct a pre-trip inspection of the equipment before driving.

•          Use correct hitching techniques with safety chains.

•          Secure loads so that it stays in the same place inside the vehicle if the vehicle has a registered weigh of 4500kg or less.

•          Implements should be locked in the “travel” position when on public roads.

•          Obey traffic safety laws and drive defensively.

The One Road campaign is to keep farmers, workers and commuters all safe when farm vehicles are on highways with motorists travelling at high speeds, and making sure farmers and workers are adhering to safe practices when using provincial highways and roadways.

We can prevent incidents on the road by slowing down, keeping a safe distance when following farm machinery, only passing when it is legal and safe to do so, anticipate farm equipment turning off the road and when in doubt, to wait and see before you act.  Don’t put us, others or yourself in an unsafe situation.

If a slow-moving sign is displayed (the orange triangle with red border) it means the farm equipment is traveling at speeds under 40km/hour.  When traveling 80km/hr, it will only take 6.5 seconds to close a 100m distance to a tractor traveling 25km/hr.

Keep a safe distance when following farm machinery.  Keep back at least 50ft and avoid the driver’s blind spots.   Farm equipment is very large, it may take up more than one lane and be longer than you expect.

Anticipate farm equipment turning off the road.  Farm equipment typically doesn’t travel far on the road.  Look for the farmers hand signals or turn signals.  Turns are often wide due to the size of the equipment.  Give them room to make the turn.

For more information on road safety for the agricultural industry visit the Farm Safety Nova Scotia website ( and take the online agricultural road safety course.  It is free for a limited time.

Remember to be visible, be aware, be courteous, and most importantly – be safe.

David Newcombe returned to the family farm after graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Finance in May 2014. He is now home on the farm with his father Craig and uncle Brian where they have a dairy, broiler and layer operation with a feed mill on farm. David is proudly the 10th generation Newcombe to be farming at Cornwallis Farms Ltd. in Port Williams. David is the Vice-President of Farm Safety Nova Scotia and sits on Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture’s Transportation Committee.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia (FSNS) works with Nova Scotia farms to keep farmers, their families, and their employees safe. It is our goal to ensure farmers have access to the tools and resources they need to operate safe and productive farms.

Since 1895, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has represented the interests of Nova Scotia’s agricultural community.