Spring planting and the harvest of wheat and other small grains in May and June mean Virginia farmers will be moving tractors and other heavy equipment on public roads. Virginia Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureau leaders statewide are encouraging drivers to be aware and share the road.
“The most important thing you can do is be aware that there will be farm equipment on the road, and realize that it’s probably not moving very fast,” said Preston Wickline of the Botetourt County Farm Bureau, and a local farmer. “The next-most-important thing you can do is slow down when you see equipment, whether it’s ahead of you in your lane or approaching you from the other direction. Often the machinery is wider than a single travel lane, and it’s built for power, not for speed.”
Farm tractors and self-propelled farm machinery often will display a triangular slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem on the rear of the vehicle when being driven on a public roadway. Many farmers also use flashing amber lights, reflective decals and escort vehicles to alert approaching drivers.
SMV emblems on the backs of slow-moving equipment warn drivers to start slowing down right away. The distance between a car traveling at 55 mph and a tractor going 20 mph will close quickly.
Consequently, a little patience on motorists’ part goes a long way.
“I try to pull over when it is safe to let traffic pass,” Wickline said. “Many farmers will use the same three hand signals that bicyclists use to indicate when they are braking or turning.”
When encountering farm equipment on the road, keep in mind:
• Farm equipment takes longer than passenger vehicles to stop, some equipment requires the driver to swing wide to make a turn, and not all pieces have turn signals, so never follow too closely.
• When passing farm machinery– never in a no-passing zone– use extreme caution.
• If the equipment is being followed by an escort vehicle, don’t pass that vehicle and get between it and the equipment.