By Chris Mackey
Spring is the season that brings new life after the slumberous winter.
Farmers and ranchers are tirelessly working as they tend to their crops and livestock to provide the country with a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply.
Despite the joys that this season brings, spring can also be a stressful time for our food providers and suppliers.
Whether our producers are planting crops, harvesting hay, or moving livestock to greener pastures, operating agriculture equipment on public roads is one of the greatest risks and liabilities our local producers face each day. This time of year comes with an increased number of farmers and ranchers on the road.
Unfortunately, with multiple blind curves, minimal passing lanes, and narrow lanes, road conditions in our area are not the most ideal for large machinery. Did you know that at 55 miles per hour, it will take your vehicle only five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and a tractor going five miles per hour? To help keep our farmers and ranchers safe, here are a few basic guidelines to follow around agricultural machinery.
When driving on the road:
• Do not pull out in front of machinery. They cannot stop as quickly as your vehicle.
• When approaching farm machinery and vehicles, be patient and wait for a safe place to pass.
• When being approached by oversized farm vehicles in the opposite lane, safely pass or pull over and wait to pass.
• Watch for farmers using hand signals when turning and stopping.
When operating farm machinery on roads:
• Do not operate machinery at night and make sure that all lights and slow-moving vehicle (SMV) signs are operational and clearly visible.
• Pull over occasionally to allow other vehicles to pass.
• Always have an escort vehicle with flashers on leading over-width equipment (over 8.5 feet wide).
• Always have proper and secure safety chains on trailers, towed equipment, and wagons.
• Always wear a seatbelt.
Agricultural machinery accidents can be devastating both physically and financially. Following these basic guidelines will help reduce the chance of an accident and provide a safer environment for both the producer and consumer.
For more information, contact Chris Mackey in the UT Extension Office at 735-1637. Additional information can also be found on our website at unicoi.tennessee.edu for a full list of programs and events.
Program announcements and timely educational resources can also be found on the local UT Extension Facebook page at facebook.com/unicoiextension.